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    Posted September 5, 2014 by
    Bordentown, New Jersey

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    Reaching Across the Aisle, Country for Jobs

    The trucking industry is responsible for transporting more than 67% of the nation’s freight (by weight). Whether the freight is fresh produce, lifesaving medicines, auto parts, farm machinery or the latest tech gadget, nearly everything we buy has been hauled on a truck.

    Additionally, almost 7 million people across the United States are employed in jobs that are directly or indirectly involved with trucking.

    Trucking is critical to the sustainability of nearly all businesses and the U.S. economy. However, as an industry and a country, we face a critical shortage of commercial truck drivers. This shortage threatens to bring our slowly rebounding economy to a grinding halt. In order to avoid this shortage, the government must work together with the trucking industry to eliminate obstacles that are impacting our ability to train, license and hire new truck drivers.

    Over the past several years, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association and trucking industry partners have been working to identify obstacles and bottlenecks that are hampering the industry’s ability to train and produce more quality drivers, meet the needs of commercial carriers and keep the economy growing.

    With a shortfall projected to reach almost 240,000 in the next 10 years, it is more important than ever for the industry to work in concert with federal and state legislatures and executive branch agencies to examine and shape policies that will help alleviate bottlenecks for those who want to enter the industry.

    This means streamlining the process of enrolling students into schools, getting them quality training and getting them skills-tested and licensed.

    In a time when many Americans are frustrated by the gridlock in Congress, there are examples of bipartisan efforts positively impacting the country and business. CVTA and the trucking industry have an impressive track record of reaching out to elected officials — federal, state and local — to educate them about obstacles that are impairing the truck driver training industry’s ability to produce more drivers.

    This outreach is leading to positive actions. Beginning in January, CVTA identified several key roadblocks which are impacting truck driver training and, therefore, driver job supply. The first obstacle is the need for a dedicated funding stream so students can obtain their training. The second is examining policies that are causing undue delay in students getting their commercial driver license.

    The collaboration paid off on July 22, when President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law. The bill streamlines and reauthorizes workforce programs through 2020. Not only is it the culmination of bipartisan cooperation of lawmakers to ensure unemployed and underemployed Americans can gain significant employment, it also is good policy.

    WIOA changes how workforce funding is allocated. Funding will now go toward “in-demand” occupations or industries. Our workforce system will now align training needs with jobs such as trucking, which need to be filled.

    The law will help workers attain the training necessary for jobs that cannot be outsourced. It also fosters a modern workforce to help make American companies meet their hiring needs and stay competitive. The law is a perfect example of industry and government coming together to eliminate legislative roadblocks in order to reduce the growing driver shortage and keep America’s freight moving. Now, it is the industry’s responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that those who are looking to become truck drivers can obtain the right skills to get jobs that are currently unfilled and badly needed.

    The second bipartisan opportunity is the result of the leadership of Reps.John Duncan (R-Tenn.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), along with 20 of their colleagues. The group sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting an examination of skill-testing delays in all 50 states.

    Students who graduate are facing severe delay times in many states while waiting to sit for their license exam after their training. These students cannot enter the workforce without their commercial driver license. As important as securing funding is for students, maintaining a timely pathway to allow students to test to get their CDL is equally important.

    Delays cause students to lose their skills, keep them from entering jobs that many are pre-hired to do and cause them to lose hope. Again, the trucking industry — led by CVTA, American Trucking Associations, the Truckload Carriers Association and the National Tank Truck Carriers, along with a number of carriers — educated members of Congress and as a result, GAO will examine the impact of these delays.

    The trucking industry and other stakeholders have much more work to do. The opportunity to create a stronger workforce and economy, by working together with all members of Congress, is possible. We can create and foster an environment where Americans can train for and attain quality trucking jobs and help meet the needs of carriers.

    We just need to forge ahead and all work together.

    Aside from his work with CVTA, Diab is the chief operating officer for Smith & Solomon Driver Training. CVTA is a trade association representing the interest of truck driving schools, students, carriers and other businesses that depend on their services. CVTA school members have 180 school locations in 41 states and graduate approximately 50,000 students annually.
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