CNBC: Lawmakers aim to train more truck drivers, ease supply chain issues through bipartisan bill

CNBC, CHELSEY COX

A pair of bipartisan lawmakers have reintroduced legislation offering tax credits to U.S. truck drivers in an effort to address a dire pandemic-related shortage.

The Strengthening Supply Chains Through Truck Driver Incentives Act aims to combat what lawmakers said was a shortfall of about 80,000 commercial truck drivers in 2021, caused by hiring and retention challenges. Fewer certified drivers can lead to more expensive shipping and delays in receiving goods, said the offices of the bill’s sponsors, Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., in a press release Monday.

The bill would establish a two-year refundable tax credit of up to $7,500 for truck drivers with a valid Class A commercial driver’s license who drive at least 1,900 hours in a year. It would offer a two-year refundable tax credit of up to $10,000 for new drivers or people in a registered trucking apprenticeship.

New commercial drivers who did not drive the year prior, or who did not drive for 1,420 hours in the current year, would also be eligible for the credit.

It was not immediately clear Monday what the bill’s chances were of passing in the current Congress. The legislation was first introduced a year ago, before Republicans won control of the House in the midterm elections.

The trucking industry struggled to retain workers during the pandemic but also saw an influx of teachers and service workers due to the steady work and competitive salaries offered. The bill aims to attract more workers to the industry and help stem shipping delays.

Gallagher called the proposal “a common sense way to recruit and retain more drivers to keep our shelves stocked and our economy moving.” In a statement, he added that the industry is “facing a massive workforce shortage that’s disrupting nearly every aspect of our supply chains.”

Spanberger in her own statement said the bill would “help bring more drivers into the fold, keep them on the highway, and reward them for their loyalty” displayed during pandemic-related shutdowns.

Ten advocacy organizations representing the trucking industry, including the American Trucking Associations and American Loggers Council, have backed the bill.

The legislation will provide relief for current truck drivers while helping to retain essential workers, said Chris Spear, president and CEO of the ATA.

“This bipartisan legislation will make a meaningful difference in the lives of new truckers, helping them move into one of the few professions in today’s economy that can provide a middle-class lifestyle without the time and expense of a four-year college degree,” Spear said in a statement.

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