Student truck drivers in limbo despite surge in shipping demands

Posted at 2:54 PM, Apr 17, 2020

As the nation's economy slows, the trucking industry is busier than ever delivering goods and keeping shelves stocked.

But with State Drivers License Agencies closed in more than 20 states, students are stuck in a holding pattern.

"Truck drivers or bus drivers aren't produced overnight; it takes a number of weeks or months to get them trained," said Don Lefeve, President and CEO of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA).

In states where DMV's are closed, students can't get their Commercial Learners Permit (CLP), which authorizes them to practice on public roads with a qualified CDL holder in the vehicle. Without a CLP, students are losing out on valuable weeks of on-the-road training.

And those ready to test for their Commercial Drivers License (CDL) are also in limbo.

"That's really problematic for our members and for motor carriers that want to hire new drivers," said Lefeve.

The industry was already short tens of thousands of drivers before the pandemic hit.

"We're going to need new drivers to haul the freight when this crisis is over, because the recovery is actually just as important as the response, or arguably equally as, if not more important," said Lefeve.

At United Truck Driving School in San Diego, five students got their CLP one day before DMV's in the state shut down.

Because Arizona offers third party testing, the school will bus the students over state lines so they can get their CDL.

"This roadblock of no DMV testing, it hits them personally, and we want to do everything we can to get these people out on the road, get them a good-paying job, support their family, and also support America's pipeline of supplies," said Cindy Stullich, director of the school.

No new drivers in various states could eventually lead to shipping delays and higher prices in goods.

Lefeve is urging governors in those states to allow exceptions for these drivers to protect the nation's supply chain.

"I think most Americans don't think too much about truck drivers until time of crisis, and these men and women are doing heroic work," said Lefeve.