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ATA president: Infrastructure, workforce remain trucking’s top priority

Nov. 22, 2021
Spear details keys for Congress to unlock supply chain bottlenecks after passage of bipartisan infrastructure bill

American Trucking Associations president and CEO Chris Spear recently testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on how the trucking industry is responding to ongoing supply challenges caused by a multitude of global factors.

Spear told lawmakers infrastructure investment and workforce development remain the trucking industry’s highest focus and detailed specific keys for Congress to help unlock bottlenecks throughout the supply chain.

ATA has been an ardent supporter of the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last week, having testified 25 times over the last five years on the dire need for greater federal investment to fix roads and bridges and bolster the U.S. supply chain.

“So as you turn to oversight, it will be critical that discretionary monies address congestion at the top bottlenecks and intermodal connectors, of which 70% are under state and local jurisdiction; and, that funding be provided for truck parking like in the House-passed bill, which costs the average driver $5,500 in direct compensation annually,” Spear said in his opening remarks.

He also stressed the slow return to post-pandemic work across all segments of the economy, transportation included. The nationwide truck driver shortage grew from 61,500 pre-pandemic to 80,000 post-pandemic, despite dramatic pay increases over that same time period.

“Pay has increased substantially, especially in the most challenging sectors of our industry,” Spear said. “Long-haul earnings, for instance, are up 24.3% since the beginning of 2019, and increasing at five times their historical average, which is nearly 10% year-over-year. Yet the shortage and retention of talent remains—elevating other contributing factors, including lifestyle changes, more time with family, work flexibility choices that only independent contractors enjoy, time lost from severe congestion and detention time, and the added layers of mandates, including requiring our workforce to vaccinate for a job that has one of the lowest risk and exposure rates in the country.”

Spear cited actions the industry is taking to grow and strengthen its workforce over the long term, such as pursuing federal apprenticeship programs included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, more urban hiring, recruiting veterans and exiting military service members, and boosting retirement incentives and health and wellness programs.

His full written testimony is available here.

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