US Looks Abroad for Drivers

The shortage of truck drivers in the United States has become so severe that companies are attempting to hire drivers from other countries in increasing numbers.

Holly McCormick is negotiating with a South African agency to seek international drivers for the first time in her 10-year trucking career. Since the pandemic, McCormick, a recruiter for Groendyke Transport Inc., has quadrupled her budget and is still having problems finding candidates.

For years, the United States has struggled with a driver shortage, but the situation was exacerbated by the pandemic, which sparked a rise in early retirements while simultaneously driving up demand for delivered goods. The ramifications have been catastrophic and far-reaching: petrol stations have been shut down. Jet fuel is in short supply at airports. Force majeure was declared by a stainless-steel manufacturer. In addition, lumber costs reached new highs, with some suppliers blaming delivery delays in part.

Trucking has emerged as one of the most serious obstacles in a supply chain that has all but unraveled as a result of the pandemic, aggravating supply shortages across industries, increasing inflation even more, and posing a threat to the broader economic recovery.

As a result, demand for Visa Solutions’ services from the trucking industry has more than doubled since before the pandemic.

Bringing in more foreign workers faces a number of challenges, including visa restrictions and complicated immigration rules, but trucking advocates believe there is now a window of opportunity to overcome some of those barriers, thanks to the Biden Administration’s creation of a task force to address supply chain issues impeding the economy’s recovery.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and Meera Joshi, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, met with trucking industry representatives in July to explore ways to improve driver retention and turnover. Among the reforms sought by the industry are decreasing the interstate driver minimum age from 21 to 18 and adding trucking to the list of companies exempt from elements of the Department of Labor’s immigration certification procedure.

Meanwhile, Andrew Owens, the CEO of A&M Transport, is looking for immigrant labor from Mexico, Europe, South Africa, and Canada to help with his driver shortfall. In the previous year, the delivery company had hired 20 foreign workers, but Owens would like to hire at least a dozen more to meet demand. He’s been waiting for authorization for a contract with 15 workers since 2017, and only two of them have made it through the procedure, which he was told would take 13 to 18 months.

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