Costello meets with trucking industry leaders over shortage of drivers
The American Trucking Associations estimate there is a shortage of almost 50,000 commercial truck drivers in the U.S.
The entire industry employs about 800,000 truckers, so the 50,000 figure is significant.
U.S. Rep. Ryan A. Costello, a Chester County Republican who represents part of Berks County, was in Wyomissing on Friday for the Commercial Drivers License Roundtable hosted by Berks Technical Institute, 2205 Ridgewood Road.
BTI, the Berks Career & Technology Center, or BCTC, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association and PennDOT met with representatives from more than a dozen food distribution and other companies from New Jersey to California.
Costello, a member of the House transportation and veterans committees, said that he was there to speak with trucking industry leaders about the state of trucking in Pennsylvania and how the federal government could help.
One of the biggest issues is pay, said Stephen P. Cantini, PennDOT's commercial driver's license, or CDL, manager.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the median trucker pay at less than $40,000 in 2014. The more drivers are away from home, the less they are paid in many cases, the report said.
John Garman, regional director of commercial drivers license instruction at BTI, told Costello that PennDOT has been overwhelmed by the number of trade school graduates and other applicants seeking CDLs. There are third-party testing companies, but they also are being overwhelmed, he said.
“The industry has grown so fast,” Garman said. “If the federal government could take some of that (testing) away from the states it would help.”
Roberto Correas, CDL site coordinator for BCTC, said that it can take four to six hours of waiting in line just to apply for a test.
The problem on PennDOT's end is that people overseeing the test must have a Class A CDL certification and there is a shortage of people to administer the tests, Cantini said.
“That's hard to come by,” Cantini said. “Where we find the difficulty is the pay scale. I could go back on the road and double my pay. That's why it's hard to get people to come from the industry to the state.”
Another cause for delay at PennDOT testing sites is that CDL applicants must stand in line with everyone seeking a license, including teens seeking to get their first driver's license. Cantini said PennDOT is discussing a CDL express lane.
Costello said advances are being made on the federal level to streamline the process of getting a CDL. He said veterans can now get their medical clearances from their local VA hospital to drive a tractor-trailer.
He said he was on a fact-finding mission to gather information he could bring back to Washington and include in future legislation.
One such law is the Denham-Brown-Costello-Ashford Amendment that would require states to provide uniform regulations on training, reimbursement or work breaks.
“The amendment is intended to allow interstate commerce and trucking companies involved in transporting goods across state lines not to have to be confronted with a patchwork of state laws,” Costello said.