OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As supply chain disruptions continue to be problems for businesses and consumers. the American Trucking Associations (ATA) reports there is a driver shortage of 80,000 drivers.
Now, the industry faces more changes with a rule being enforced by the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, which implements new requirements for some Commercial Driver's License (CDL) applicants and CDL training providers.
"So, if a person wants to apply for the commercial driver's license for the first time, they have to attend those qualified schools. Theoretically not every current training facility is qualified, so it may reduce some of the facility's ability to attract new drivers," said Peter Zhu, a supply chain management professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
"It's causing a little bit of a bottleneck; we won't know the full effects for probably another six months," said Greater Omaha Express President Brent Falgione.
This rule was passed by Congress several years ago — long before the pandemic, supply chain woes or the shortages we're seeing now. But with the rule getting enforced next month, Falgione worries about the timing.
"The timing of the new regulations is going to put even more stress on the supply chain. What we're seeing, you gotta remember truckload tonnage is up in December, year-over-year again 1.4% and that's four years in a row. That means there's more shipments needed to come on trucks (because) we have less drivers," Falgione said.
Zhu has ideas on how to address the shortage.
"Try to make truckers happier by getting paid more and they'll have better living conditions when they are driving, and when they're not driving, and this will be something to attract new drivers and retain current drivers," Zhu said.
"The days of trucks, drivers having to go out for 45 days away from home, no benefits — those days are over," Falgione said.
On his trucks, Falgione has implemented all kinds of luxuries to help with driver retention like flat-screen televisions, heated and air-conditioned seats, microwaves and bunk beds for fellow passengers.
"We will just continue to see more empty store shelves without these men and women on the highway. We've got to have them get the products from point A to where we can pick them up."
The federal government is also moving forward with a test program that lets teens drive semis from state to state.