National

Trucking industry calls for improved working conditions and pay amid shortages

WASHINGTON — Truckers play a critical role in our supply chain.

A House subcommittee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the challenges facing the trucking industry that are impacting the ability of consumers to get the goods they need.

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“If you bought it, a trucker brought it because nearly everything purchased for your home got to the store on the back of a truck,” Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) said.

“This essential workforce delivers for America and supplies everything from groceries to clothing to lifesaving medicine,” Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said.

Crawford said more than 80 percent of communities get their goods exclusively by truck.

But the industry is facing a severe recruitment and retention problem.

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Lawmakers said there is a shortage of nearly 80,000 truckers in the U.S., which is expected to continue to climb.

Truckers said a big part of the problem comes down to unsafe and unfair working conditions.

“I would actually like to see you or your colleagues try to get any work done if you didn’t have a safe place to rest at night,” said William Pugh, Executive Vice President of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “If you showed up here for work at 9 a.m. in the morning, were not allowed to do anything until early afternoon, all while not being allowed to use the restroom or being paid for that time you wasted.”

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Witnesses said another key factor comes down to pay.

“Low wages for very hard work is the biggest issue that we face,” said Cole Scandaglia, Senior Legislative Representative and Policy Advisor for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The trucking industry called on Congress to ensure truckers are protected on the job but cautioned against overburdening them with too many government regulations.

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“Good jobs and good working conditions in the freight industry directly translate to a stronger supply chain,” Scandaglia said.

The panel’s testimony also pointed to concerns about the lack of safe parking for truckers.

There is now legislation under consideration in Congress aimed at expanding safe parking options for truckers.

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