WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday highlighted gains in the trucking industry since he took office and said his administration will continue to remove obstacles in the sector in an effort to help improve U.S. supply chains.
Biden said last year was the best on record for trucking job growth since 1994, with gains continuing into the first quarter of 2022 after the administration unveiled its plan to boost trucking employment in December. The U.S. at the beginning of this year had its best three-month stretch for long-distance trucking hiring since the 1990s, the president said.
"We’ve got to keep it going, we’re building a better economy around American manufacturing and American supply chains," Biden said while flanked by semitrucks during an event on the White House lawn.
"You make it run, you literally make it run," Biden said to the group of truckers and industry officials on hand. "I have nothing against investment bankers, but they could all retire and nothing much would change. You all quit, everything comes to a halt — think about it. I'm not joking, comes to a literal halt."
Biden said his administration will continue to expedite the issuing of commercial driver's licenses required to operate trucks. The White House said since January 2021, states have issued more than 876,000 of the special licenses, and trucking employment now exceeds pre-pandemic levels by 35,000 jobs.
The administration has also made it a priority to hire more military veterans and women into the industry, which is dominated by men. As part of the plan, the industry has partnered with major veterans' organizations "to support the recruitment and retention of veterans and military family members in trucking," the White House said.
"Trucking moves 72 percent of goods in America and is a lynchpin in our goods movement supply chain," the White House said in preview of the progress report. "Trucking costs grew more than 20 percent last year as a surge in demand for goods caused by the pandemic confronted a decline in trucking employment that preceded the pandemic. The low supply of drivers is driven by high turnover and low job quality."
To improve retention and prevent fast turnover in the trucking industry, the administration has nearly doubled apprenticeship programs for trucking through 100 employers and seven trade associations, the White House said. It also held multiple listening sessions with truck drivers, advocates and unions to understand how to make trucking jobs more appealing and high-quality.
Biden has attributed historically high levels of inflation over the past year to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, including worker shortages in the trucking industry. In December, the president announced a Trucking Action Plan to try to encourage more people to seek employment in the industry, a sector that has struggled for years to hire and retain workers.
The plan is part of a joint effort by the Department of Transportation and Department of Labor and stems from the infrastructure legislation that Congress passed and Biden signed into law last year.