The shortage of commercial truck drivers has been quantified and talked about on a national level for some time, but now a legislatively-mandated study committee has confirmed that the problem is real in South Carolina.
Their charge was to consider how state and local government fleet operations might hire entry-level commercial drivers’ license (CDL) holders. The report issued by the SC Technical College System, which was charged with spearheading the study pursuant to a state budget bill proviso, was distributed to the members of the South Carolina General Assembly on October 31.
The group heard from private sector fleet operators and commercial truck insurance companies that businesses can’t hire entry-level or inexperienced young drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 because of liability issues and lack of experience. Despite state law authorizing 18-year-old drivers to get a CDL, law mandates drivers be 21 years old before they can operate in inter-state commerce. The report recognized the age and experience gap that hinders employability even though a potential driver has a CDL.
According to the South Carolina Trucking Association, all industry sectors are calling the shortage of qualified workers to be nearing a crisis level. Worse, they say, is the driver shortage because of age, liability, and insurance limitations.
The report confirms these concerns, and recognizes that public agencies, through government–run truck fleets, can provide entry-level employment opportunities for new CDL holders.
The South Carolina Trucking Association has issued the following statements regarding the report:
“It didn’t take long for all of the stakeholders to sit up and take notice that we have a crisis looming, which has the potential to have significant negative impacts across the supply chain if not addressed aggressively,” says Rick Todd, president & CEO of the South Carolina Trucking Association.
“We submit that, working in a coordinated effort, our government agencies can foster a mutually beneficial workforce development environment if young people coming straight out of technical colleges with a CDL can find immediate employment with government agencies driving their trucks locally. That will allow them to gain the experience necessary before the private sector is able to hire them because of insurance/experience-related restrictions.
“With methodical planning and promotion, government agencies would find a willing and able entry-level workforce, our young people would find prospects for good paying jobs, and this would provide a pathway to more opportunities once they’ve gained on the job training and experience as local commercial drivers.
“We all are looking for ways to get kids on the proper track beginning as early as possible. This approach would begin a track, preparing them in high school, so they can hit the ground running at a technical college to earn their CDL credential.
“We think that with public schools and public agencies all being part of our ‘government’, then it makes sense for them to clear a path and help prepare our citizens to be productive workers.”
“Most government owned fleets operate in a limited-radius, generally low-speed operating environment, which would be well-suited to entry-level drivers,” said Jerry Smith, who was the South Carolina Trucking Association representative on the study committee.
Smith, who chaired the Trucking Association last year, is general manager of Associated Petroleum Carriers, Spartanburg, and has a background in law-enforcement, trucking safety and risk management, and commercial transportation insurance.
“We have some educating to do ourselves, in that we’ve got to convince parents and kids that a career as a commercial truck driver or diesel mechanic pays well and is an occupation they can take pride in. These people keep America moving.
“The transportation, distribution and logistics (TDL) industries are fundamental to our economy and heavily dependent on commercial vehicles.
“We can envision people saying proudly: ‘I am a CDL professional, working in the TDL industry.’”
About the South Carolina Trucking Association:
The South Carolina Trucking Association is a nonprofit trade association representing all segments of the trucking industry. Organized in the 1932, SCTA serves the transportation needs of the state, region and nation by providing educational opportunities, compiling and distributing essential information and conducting aggressive programs of advocacy.