2021 was a year like no other for the trucking industry, complete with vaccine mandate debates, higher-than-ever demand from the latest surge in e-commerce, supply chain disruptions, and an ongoing need for major infrastructure improvements.
Here’s a look back at some of the most prominent news the industry saw during the second year of the coronavirus pandemic.
Supply Chain Woes Continue
Truckers and ship workers alike waited for solutions in regards to crowded ports with long pickup and unloading lines, which were often reaching numbers of nearly 100 ships waiting to unload at a time. Now, supply chain disruptions have been a common concern among industry members and the public alike, with folks constantly worried about store shelves staying stocked and members of Congress struggling to find ways to more quickly create solutions.
These issues did urge the White House, along with Congress, to negotiate new legislation aiming to improve vast amounts of American infrastructure, though.
Infrastructure Bill Passes
The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was approved, allocating $115 billion for bridge and highway improvement projects across the nation, passed by 215 Democrats and 13 Republicans voting in its favor.
Truck Driver Shortage
The trucker shortage is still one of the most pressing issues to impact the industry, with trucking companies rolling out pay boosts and benefit improvements to incentivize more trucking candidates to come on board.
Additionally, the Biden administration announced its plans to boost retention of current truckers and recruitment of new ones with the 90-day Biden-Harris Trucking Action Plan. In the plan, carriers, drivers, and unions will be invited to listening sessions to find ways of improving trucker work-life balance, pay, and detention and delay issues. Additionally, experts will work to find ways of attracting more military veterans into the industry, supporting pilot program training and licensing for drivers between 18- and 21-years-old to drive within interstate commerce, incentivizing more women to explore careers in trucking, providing assistance to states with CDL process challenges, and creating further apprenticeship opportunities for drivers.
COVID-19 Rages On
The workforce of truck drivers has dwindled further as some catch the disease, and others leave due to health concerns or a refusal to become vaccinated. Mandatory vaccinations and testing are both in the works for the industry, especially for companies with 100 or more employees. The mandate has reached the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the issue last week.
Additionally, both U.S. and Canadian governments will set forth requirements next month mandating that truckers crossing borders be fully vaccinated.
Still, freight demand is at unprecedented highs as more and more people complete most of their shopping online, a culture of e-commerce that skyrocketed at the beginning of stay-at-home orders early on in the pandemic.
Electric Vehicles Take Reign
Various truck and passenger vehicle manufacturers are expanding choices when it comes to electric vehicles, with many states beginning to mandate electric-vehicle-only manufacturing laws that will come into effect in the coming years.
With these technological changes, many truck drivers are having to learn to adapt to a plethora of new in-cab software and phone application usage while on the job–a modern shift that is believed to be causing many older truck drivers to leave the industry early.
Truck Driver Pay Expectations Reach New Heights
Carriers constantly announced pay jumps for their truckers in 2021, with many also boosting driver benefits multiple times over the span of the year. In fact, driver pay ranked third in the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual list of top industry issues.
Fleets, in a bid to retain and recruit as many truckers as needed in the midst of the driver shortage, began offering sign-on bonuses as high as $15,000, with others increasing accessorial pay and health benefits, along with various new compensation programs to give drivers more control in regards to how they’re paid.
Mitigating pay losses during long shipping and receiving wait times continues to be an issue for truckers, but Biden’s Trucking Action Plan will aim to “lay the foundation for a next-generation trucking workforce that will strengthen U.S. competitiveness and support millions of good driving jobs for years to come.”