Truck driver license testing will be expanded to six days a week in Texas as a manner of addressing the current countrywide truck driver shortage. This shortage has further exacerbated the already-stretched-thin supply chain that has been hit by pandemic-related obstacles and the boost in e-commerce that came along with stay-at-home orders and exponentially high online shopping numbers.
According to the Department of Public Safety, those looking to receive a new commercial driver’s license or renew an existing one have been able to take the necessary test over three Saturdays in November within certain state offices.
“TXTA applauds DPS for opening CDL office locations for three Saturdays in November for CDL transactions only,” said John D. Esparza, President and CEO of the Texas Trucking Association. “The ongoing lack of commercial driver license drivers combined with the backlog of CDL appointment times contribute to the driver shortage and as a result, the supply chain challenges we are experiencing.”
Until now, these commercial driver license tests were only available between Monday and Friday.
“We’ve all seen reports, or personally felt the impact, of the severe strain our supply chain is currently facing,” said department director, Steven McCraw. “By adding CDL services at select offices, we can get more qualified commercial drivers out on the roads to move more goods to Texans across the state and help meet the demand.”
Although adding these testing days will allow for more drivers to receive their commercial licenses–especially for applicants who are unavailable to take the test during the week, the priority should be on welcoming the safest and most highly-trained truckers into the industry, noted Levinson and Stefani’s Jay Stefani.
“Trucking companies need to find new drivers, and that’s great, so long as they’re hiring safe, qualified, and experienced drivers,” he said. “Extending CDL office hours is a way to make sure nobody is rushing these new drivers through testing. Nobody wants a trucker on the road that was hurried through the licensing and testing process.”
Luckily, some improvement initiatives within the trucking industry are also helping to address the shortage, and driver training schools have seen increased enrollment numbers lately. Some industry experts believe this change is due to the amount of positive public attention that has been centered around truckers and their efforts during the pandemic era.
Additionally, a pilot program to allow younger drivers to become qualified to drive interstate trucking has been incorporated into President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, as well. This initiative will likely help these young drivers to be trained and hired more easily than ever.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Jeremy Reymer, founder and CEO of DriverReach. “If the data proves young people can drive [safely], even [more safely] than their counterparts who are over 21, I think it will lead to a longer-lasting federal rule, but that may be five or 10 years down the road.”
Still, incentivizing qualified drivers to enter the trucking industry is requiring a lot of extra effort from trucking companies–something that will continue into 2022.
“In this market, unless you’re a top-tiered paying company and your drivers are going home every day, it’s going to be a challenge,” said vice president of driver recruitment at Roehl Transport, Tim Norlin. “There is no silver bullet. We’re all short [on] drivers, and there are not enough coming in.”
Roehl has increased its drivers’ wages to over $1,400 a week–a considerable increase to $72,000 a year from 2020’s $59,800 a year–in an effort to entice more truckers to join the company.
“All we are doing is chasing each other’s drivers with higher cents per mile, a bigger sign-on bonus, more paid time off,” Norlin said.
Recruiting military veterans into the industry (around one-quarter of all current trucker drivers are veterans) will also be helpful for the industry as a whole in addressing the long-running shortage, according to the vice president of business development for Veterans in Trucking, Matt Roland.
“We want trucking companies to identify the military veteran population,” Roland said, “and we want to connect the veterans to trucking companies, and we want to ensure those trucking companies have the resources available to hire these veterans.”