Facing a driver shortage, DOL sponsors apprenticeship program

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the industry is facing a shortage of 80,000 drivers. The U.S. DOT says roughly 300,000 drivers a year leave the profession.

Nick Geale, vice president of workforce policy at ATA, said opening the industry to women, veterans, and younger drivers, who are currently largely restricted from entering the profession, would help address labor challenges.

“The quality jobs are restricted to people who are 21 and older, so we lose an entire generation to construction, food service and other industries,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.

To alleviate the problem, ATA, and software development firm FASTPORT are entering into a historic co-sponsored Registered Apprenticeship agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor. The signing ceremony was attended by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear and ATA Chairman Harold Sumerford Jr., and FASTPORT Executive Director of Workforce Development Dave Harrison.

As a DOL-recognized national apprenticeship sponsor, the ATA can now offer its 37,000 plus members apprenticeship services to train the next generation of truck driving talent. They will work through FASTPORT to streamline program creation, implementation, and support to ensure those programs begin as soon as possible to help alleviate the driver shortage.

“FASTPORT is committed to providing the industry with technical assistance and overarching support to accelerate apprenticeship programs. We can help any company and meet their needs along any spectrum in as little as 48 hours,” said FASTPORT President Brad Bentley referencing their timeline and work as the White House Apprenticeship Accelerator for the administration’s 90 Day Trucking Challenge.

“Today is a great day for our association and one we have been working toward for some time,” said Spear. “This partnership puts us in a stronger position to help guide our members and millions of Americans as they pursue rewarding careers in our industry as commercial drivers, and we hope to build on this agreement for technicians and other trucking industry workforces.”

“We are proud to co-sponsor this initiative with the largest trucking industry association as they have the power to help reach thousands of employers and positively impact the future of trucking through apprenticeships. We are ready and look forward to working together to bring the earn-and-learn model to the forefront of trucking and its leading employers,” said FASTPORT’s Dave Harrison.

FASTPORT was selected by the Biden-Harris Administration because of their tremendous success in the transportation sector and work with transitioning military veterans. To date, they have already helped organizations recruit and hire more than 16,000 apprentices. Since joining the Trucking Task Force, FASTPORT has helped more than 250 organizations develop and implement a registered apprenticeship program.

The Departments of Labor and Transportation launched the 90 Day Trucking Apprenticeship Challenge to jumpstart this proven workforce strategy in trucking.

Over 100 employers across trucking, food and grocery, and the oil and gas industries launched Registered Apprenticeship programs in 90 days. This includes Domino’s, Frito-Lay, UPS, states, and national partners such as FASTPORT and the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters. This proven earn and learn model of workforce training will help employers and labor develop and retain a skilled workforce. Apprentices are already hitting the road with NFI and Total Transportation each hiring over 50 apprentices after launching new programs under the Apprenticeship Challenge.

With these 100 employers and seven trade associations now offering apprenticeships, the industry nearly doubled the number of programs nationwide. This could, in turn, double the number of registered apprenticeships in 2022 and result in more than 10,000 new registered apprenticeships. As a point of comparison, annual trucking employment growth averaged 24,000 in the decade before the pandemic.

Through the Apprenticeship Challenge, industry associations are now leading on the expansion of trucking apprenticeships and will be across the U.S. for years to come. This includes the American Trucking Association, the National Tank Truck Association, FMI (the Food Industry Association), the National Minority Trucking Association, the North American Punjabi Trucking Association, and the Truckload Carriers Association. And the Trucking Alliance, where every member carrier – among the largest long-haul companies that collectively employ more than 80,000 drivers – committed to offer truck driver registered apprenticeships in more than 200 apprenticeship locations in 36 states across the country.

Over 70 additional employers of all sizes and industry segments including Sysco and WM (Waste Management Inc.) are in the process of developing and launching apprenticeship programs.