The Washington Times: No remote options: America’s truckers deserve our thanks and support

WASHINGTON TIMES, REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER

When Americans think about the frontline workers who kept our communities safe and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, they often think of nurses, doctors, police officers, and educators. Indeed, these Americans are tremendously deserving of our gratitude.

However, the hardworking men and women of America’s trucking industry should not be forgotten in this conversation.

When Americans ordered more packages for delivery than ever before, America’s truckers stepped up, made sacrifices, and guaranteed that goods arrived at their destination. When supply chains were strained, truckers worked overtime. And when testing equipment, PPE, and vaccines needed to make it to hospitals and clinics, truckers were the Americans who got it done. There were no “remote options.”

America’s truckers embody our nation’s values of hard work, energy, and dogged determination. However, America’s trucking industry faces increasingly difficult hiring and retention challenges — ones that extend even beyond the residual impacts of the pandemic.

I’ve heard directly from trucking industry leaders in Virginia about the difficulties of hiring a new generation of drivers, as well as the hardships of keeping reliable drivers on the payroll and in the trade — particularly as the cost of living has soared for so many families.

For starters — demand is high, but qualified employees can be hard to find. Last year, American trucking companies reported a shortage of approximately 80,000 drivers. This shortage impacts consumers, as trucks move more than 72% of our nation’s goods. Additionally, many trucking companies have struggled to hire drivers without offering bonuses or much higher wages to qualified drivers.

To further compound these issues, the median age of American truck drivers right now sits between 51 and 52-years old. It’s a simultaneously aging and shrinking workforce, meaning our driver shortage is here to stay — unless we act.

To combat driver shortages, we need to focus on attracting more skilled drivers to this industry — and we need to make sure workers receive the compensation they’ve earned for their hard work.

That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Supply Chains Through Truck Driver Incentives Act earlier this year. I teamed up with Congressman Mike Gallagher — a Republican from Wisconsin — in introducing our commonsense bill.

By creating a refundable tax credit for America’s truckers, our bill would encourage more young people — from Virginia to Wisconsin and everywhere in between — to enter this industry. Our legislation would also reduce some of the headaches faced by trucking businesses, and it would reward experienced drivers for their loyalty.

For readers who are more familiar with the trucking industry, this bill would create a new, refundable tax credit of up to $7,500 for current truck drivers who drive at least 1,900 hours in a year.

And to help recruit talented drivers, our bill would also establish a refundable tax credit of up to $10,000 for new truck drivers, as well as for Americans enrolled in a registered trucking apprenticeship. This “signing bonus” tax credit would help take pressures off trucking businesses at a moment when company budgets are stretched thin.

More Americans should be aware of the fulfilling and family-sustaining careers they can build in this important line of work — and through these incentives, our bill would remind younger people about the real opportunities they can find out on the road.

I’ve been proud to see our bill backed by industry groups like the American Trucking Associations and the American Loggers Council. I’ve also been grateful for the vocal support from Virginians at the Virginia Trucking Association, the Virginia Farm Bureau, the Virginia Loggers Association, and the Virginia Agribusiness Council. These groups recognize the urgency of persuading workers to join and stay in this competitive industry.

America’s truckers deserve support from both parties on Capitol Hill — because they deserve a Congress that has the backs of the Americans who keep our economy moving and our communities strong.

There won’t be a Democratic Party-only solution for fixing the economic challenges we face — just as there won’t be a magic, Republican-only plan that will alleviate the burdens placed on America’s businesses. Legislation like the Strengthening Supply Chains Through Trucker Driver Incentives Act demonstrates that Democrats and Republicans can still work together — even in this era of hyper-partisanship and Twitter fights — to respond to the needs of our constituents, find new ideas to longstanding challenges, and focus on building a stronger economic foundation for our workforce.

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