MCSAC meetings to keep driver retention talks going

July 16, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The issue of driver retention was the focus of a roundtable discussion last week hosted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Labor. That conversation is expected to continue when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee meets July 19-20.

The committee, which consists of 25 industry stakeholders, is scheduled to meet via videoconference, according to a notice published in the Federal Register. The meetings are scheduled to run from 9:15 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Eastern time each day.

Members of the public can register to watch the meetings here.

According to the notice, Tuesday’s portion of the meetings “will include discussions about workforce skills for the motor carrier sector and identified gaps, opportunities, and potential best practices in meeting the future workforce needs and driver retention for the motor carrier industry, as well as the role of transportation systems and the safe and efficient transportation of passengers and freight across our nation.”

OOIDA President Todd Spencer serves as a member on MCSAC and also took part in last week’s driver retention roundtable discussion.

During the roundtable discussion, the conversation shifted from the typical message of there being a driver shortage to looking at what causes drivers to get a CDL and quickly leave the industry. The FMCSA noted that turnover rates for large long-haul carriers are more than 90%.

Spencer, as well as numerous other industry stakeholders, talked about the hardships involved with being a truck driver and pushed for increased pay and better working conditions as the ways to lower that turnover rate.

“Trucking is a tough life,” said Spencer, who started his career as a trucker and still holds a commercial driver’s license. “It demands the best, and it requires the best. As we learned during the pandemic, trucking is an essential industry. But it is every single day. It’s always essential. And the issues now with retention, every employer in the country has it right now. The secret is pay, benefits and working conditions.”

The MCSAC agenda also includes discussions about how to deal with an aging workforce and the possibility of allowing younger drivers to enter the industry.

OOIDA says claims of a long-term shortage of truck drivers are false and proposals to lower the interstate driving minimum from 21 years old to 18 would be detrimental to highway safety. During the driver retention roundtable, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Cathy Chase urged the DOT to not pull teenagers “from high school hallways to high-speed highways.”

Driver subcommittee

The MCSAC meeting notice said its first driver subcommittee meeting will be later this summer.

Earlier this year, the FMCSA named 25 people to serve on a commercial motor vehicle driver panel, which will serve as a subcommittee of MCSAC. Spencer will serve as the chairperson of the driver subcommittee.

According to the MCSAC meeting notice, the driver subcommittee will be asked to give its input on workforce needs later this summer. LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.