KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry saw a shortage of roughly 61,000 drivers in 2019.
In an email to KSHB 41 News, ATA stated that shortage is due to a number of reasons:
"The first is, because of the pandemic, we had fewer drivers trained. We estimate that because of school closures and distancing requirements, about 30-40% fewer new drivers were trained in 2020. That’s a huge hit and will take a long time to recover from. Another factor is, and we think this is a good thing, is the enactment of the drug and alcohol clearinghouse. ATA strongly supports the clearinghouse, which tracks drivers’ drug test results. Prior to 2020, carriers had no way of knowing if a driver had failed or evaded a test, and now they do. There have been nearly 65,000 drivers entered into the clearinghouse (mostly for marijuana use as states liberalize laws), but to date just over 10,000 have completed the necessary steps to become eligible to drive again – that’s 55,000 CDL holders who currently are not allowed to drive because of their status in the clearinghouse."
Another factor is an older workforce.
According to ATA, the average truck driver is nearly 50 years old, while the average worker in the U.S. is 42. A big part of that is that you cannot begin work as a truck driver driving across state lines until you’re 21.
ATA hopes the DRIVE Safe Act will pass, which would allow people to start driving trucks at 18 or 19 with enhanced training and technology.
There is also a small percentage of women behind the wheel. Although women make up 47 percent of the workforce, only six percent of truck drivers are women.
At New Reflections Technical Institute, there's been an increase in recruitment - specifically for women who are interested in driving.
Desiree Johnson is one of the women who is studying to get her CDL.
"I like big trucks," Johnson said. "Truth be told, when it's like this, it's like driving a car."
Although she stepped away from nursing after 18 years, her drive to help others continued.
"This is probably one of the fastest ways for a lot of industries to get from point A to point Z," Johnson said. "So you know, it's another way to contribute to help."
At New Reflections, her classmates, also known as her "truck family" cheered her on as she prepared to take the test.
Founder of New Reflections Mark Byrd said roughly 250 people go through the class each year.
Recently, the institute has seen an increase in women aspiring to be truck drivers.
"Our enrollment has increased by 70 percent with women drivers and getting jobs," Byrd said. "They're starting at $70-80,000 out the gate."
For Johnson, although she's new in the industry, she comes from a line of drivers.
"In my family, there's a lot of male truck drivers. I'm actually the first female truck driver in my family and they're all rooting for me," Johnson said. "I am so that woman!"
To learn more about CDL instruction at New Reflections, visit the program's website.
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