NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — The trucking industry is short 80,000 drivers — a record high, according to the American Trucking Associations.
That's a 30% increase from before the pandemic when the industry already faced a labor shortage of 61,500 drivers. This comes at a time when U.S. ports are backlogged, primarily because there are few trucks and drivers to pick up cargo — creating a supply chain slowdown.
"They have to have the training first because it is a big piece of machinery. They have to learn how to operate it they have to learn how to inspect it for issues and problems and operate it safely," said Shawn Davis, who went from driving the truck to teaching others the skill behind the wheel. "Teaching new drivers can be challenging, but it's very rewarding."
Truck driving has changed in his years from the safety features inside a rig to the people driving them.
"Being a woman right now I feel like women drivers are coming into this industry full force I mean our classes are no more than five to six students and we have at least one woman every single week," said Priscilla Davis.
Shawn Davis and his wife Priscilla own and operate Tennessee CDL School Inc. They both say they know about the shortage of 80,000 drivers.
"It’s not a problem just here in Tennessee, it's a problem nationwide with a lot of states," Shawn Davis said.
He says there are people interested and applying to become truck drivers. Adding, COVID-19 forced many driving facilities to close which created a backlog for truckers to get their testing and their certified driver's license -- the main things they need to start at a job.
"We're looking at a month and a half to two months across the board and I'm talking about I take my students across different areas in the state to even get tested," Shawn Davis said.
He's calling for more testing sites or an option to allow truck driving schools to provide the testing for a CDL.
Shawn Davis said the longer these skills drivers have to wait for a CDL the longer they are without a job.
The federal infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden authorizes hundreds of billions of dollars for transportation, which would include workforce development for the trucking industry.
That would allow 3,000 drivers between the ages of 18-20 to undergoing training, permitting them to drive tractor-trailers across state lines. Currently, drivers must be 21 to do so.