High Demand, Good Pay, Great Industry, Low Career Interest
It’s no secret that CDL (commercial driver’s license) training programs across the nation are in short supply of students. Just ask carrier employers who are having their current employees work overtime or are unable to take on new business. Ask the warehouses and distributors about how many complaints they get from retailers about products not shipping in time. Ask the Minnesota Trucking Association (MTA) and every other state trucking association about the workforce shortage reaching critical mass for their members. Or ask the education program teachers and administrators who have to close, reduce or delay programs because of low enrollment.
The challenge is real and the education and industry partners of the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence (TCOE) and MTA are working together to address it. Over the next three editions of the newsletter, we will focus on this challenge. We will cover how industry is responding what the 2018 and 2020 legislations say and what impact they may have, and document successful programs to adopt in your area.
The numbers are drastic. Data provided by the Midwest Transportation Workforce Center, indicated that by 2022 CDL drivers will be the 2nd most in demand transportation job in the Midwest with an estimated 470,000 jobs. That’s almost double the demand of all other transportation jobs in the Midwest COMBINED!
Why is the demand so high? Multiple reasons; online shopping with regional warehouse shipping, increases in the economy in the Midwest, changes in how we do business and move cargo regionally versus locally, advances in road technology and highways, continued advances in vehicle technology, operational costs, and many more.
In addition to demand, there will an increase in worker retirements that is being experienced in every other industry. According to Driver News, the average age of a truck driver is 49. The 2017 State of Trucking report states the average new driver age is 31. According to Carl Borlais, CDL Instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College, “our average student has never been the traditional college age. In fact, we often get students where this may be their 2nd or 3rd career choice.”
One of the TCOE’s industry partners, the MTA, says that this shortage is a symptomatic result of the lack of driver apprenticeship programs, increased regulations, insurance underwriting requirements for new drivers, low driver training enrollments, financial aid restrictions on some training programs, changing lifestyle expectations, and an unfavorable impression of the truck driving profession.
Even with all this demand in the industry, four Minnesota State college programs (customized and for-credit/ academic) have closed or suspended operations in the last five years. Additionally, two private training institutions in
Minnesota have closed their doors as well. All closed due to the high cost of providing quality training not being offset with enough students – or even partially filling classes.
Minnesota laws for licensing Class A drivers mimic Federal laws. A person must be at least 18 years old to take the permit test. An 18-21 year old can take the driving test and get a Class A CDL license but cannot drive out of state or haul loads that are destined or originate from
out of state. John Hausladen, MTA president, said “This rule is problematic for many of our employers for two reasons. First, the load inside many trailers either originates from or is destined to go outside the state. That’s the way commerce today works in Minnesota. Second, an employer in Duluth cannot send an 18-21 year old driver 10 miles down the road to Superior, Wisconsin but CAN send that same driver to Worthington, back up to Warroad, down to Rochester, and back to Duluth.”
According to JJ Keller, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aware of this issue and how it affects employers and the workforce development. They just announced the development of a pilot program which will allow a limited number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. The individuals must have received specified heavy-vehicle driver training while in military service and be sponsored by a participating motor carrier. During the pilot program, the safety records of the drivers will be compared to the records of a control group. The control group will be of a comparable size, comprised of volunteer drivers who are 21 years of age or older and who have comparable training, experience in driving vehicles requiring a CDL, meet specified criteria and are employed by a participating carrier. The comparison of the two groups’ performance would help to determine whether age is a critical safety factor.
FEDERAL LEGISLATION COMING SOON
There are two pieces of legislation coming from the FMCSA that are coming soon that will affect education. The first is the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) requirement. Implementation started phasing in last year and will full force by December 2019. All commercial trucks must have an ELD installed in the truck and the driver must know how to operate it. This will place a challenge on education programs by adding a cost to each truck and adding time to the curriculum to teach it.
Again, John Hausladen explains this in detail. “The FMCSA’s Entry-Level Driver Training rule will become effective on February 7, 2020. Under this rule, a new commercial vehicle driver must complete a mandatory knowledge and behind- the-wheel training program before they may take the CDL skills test. The number of hours required for the training program is not mandated. This new rule will have a positive and negative impact to the industry. However, the industry has a driver shortage. Currently, a new commercial vehicle driver may take the CDL exam without completing a training program.
This new rule adds another barrier to new drivers entering the profession. The MTA’s Driver Training Task Force will take into account this new rule as they identify ways the MTA can help its members and the trucking industry solve the driver shortage problem.
The new legislation states that beginning in 2020 a driver applying for a CDL license must comple federally approved training requirements at an accredited training provider. Minnesota State programs will federally approved and accredited program by taking several steps to update their curriculmn. The TCOE will be facilitating the communication of what needs to be completed and will be helping colleges get the resources they need for compliance.
In the next two newsletters, we will be hearing from the newly formed Driver Training Task Force, led by the MTA. The group started meeting in November 2017, and has started developing recommendations for industry. The TCOE is collaborating with this group to help implement the recommendations they develop.
We will also hear about efforts in high schools and how we can do effective outreach to younger audiences as an industry and education collaboration. Lastly, we will be communicating about the work the TCOE would like to do in partnership with the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools.