FMCSA Leader Spotlights Initiatives to Welcome More Owner Operators
In a recent appearance before a House policy committee on Dec. 13, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) leader Robin Hutcheson discussed crucial recruitment programs, particularly those targeting women, as part of comprehensive efforts to address the industry-wide driver shortage, including Owner Operators. This update underscores the ongoing commitment to safety and connectivity within the supply chain, emphasizing the vital role of these initiatives in enhancing the trucking workforce.
The Women of Trucking Advisory Board
Mandated under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Women of Trucking Advisory Board stands out as a significant effort to encourage and support women entering the trucking industry. The advisory board addresses obstacles such as violence, harassment, and discrimination faced by women in the industry. Hutcheson highlighted the importance of reducing these barriers, recognizing the untapped talent that should not be overlooked. The FMCSA leader emphasized the implementation of training requirements to ensure all drivers entering the industry possess a minimum level of training.
Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program
In addition to the women-centric recruitment initiatives, the IIJA paved the way for the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program. This program, facilitated by the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, allows individuals aged 18 to 20 to undergo training for careers as professional truck drivers and ideally, future Owner Operators. The aim is to amplify the industry’s exposure to a younger demographic and address the shortage of drivers under the age of 21 in interstate driving functions.
Hutcheson addressed concerns about the under-21 driver apprenticeship program, assuring that the FMCSA is diligently working to build and expand the program. The focus is on determining whether younger drivers can operate as safely as or more safely than the general commercial motor vehicle operator population through apprenticeship and training.
Enhanced Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement
Highlighting the importance of industry-wide efforts, Hutcheson stressed the FMCSA’s commitment to building awareness and participation in these programs. Social media, paid media, outreach to vocational high schools, direct mail, and various events are part of the enhanced outreach strategy starting in January. The goal is to actively engage with stakeholders and potential drivers and future Owner Operators, creating a more dynamic and accessible recruitment environment.
Congressional Support and Budget Allocations
While concerns about the pace and directives associated with IIJA’s implementation were expressed during the hearing, stakeholders, including the American Trucking Associations, acknowledge the necessity of enhancing recruitment and retention efforts to address the driver shortage. For fiscal 2024, the House and Senate have approved nearly $1 billion for FMCSA’s operational budget, recognizing the urgency of supporting these critical initiatives.
In conclusion, these initiatives underscore the commitment to building a diverse and skilled trucking workforce. As the industry strives to address the driver shortage, we invite you to stay updated on these developments. Follow our YouTube channel, Facebook page and blog for more insights and updates on how these efforts are shaping the future of trucking. Together, let’s drive towards a stronger and more vibrant trucking community!