© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden raises question after announcing the release of 1 million barrels of oil a day over the next six months from US strategic oil reserves, as part of the administration’s efforts to lower gasoline prices, at Wh
Authors David Shepardson and Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Monday stressed the importance of the U.S. transportation industry, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the administration worked to increase the number of truck drivers by attracting more women and veterans.
The White House said an increase in the employment of truck drivers and the issuance of commercial driver’s licenses. It has been said that 100 large employers have launched internship programs in recent months to help train new drivers.
Biden said U.S. agencies and companies are working harder to attract women drivers, but said more needs to be done to improve truck transport jobs.
Biden called for change “so we can attract more Americans to jobs with increased wages, reduced waiting times and improved security, and more.”
The White House said actions are underway to make it easier to be a truck driver, including making it easier to find parking spaces and doing more to strengthen workplace safety and workers ’rights for drivers.
Biden was joined by Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg in outlining efforts to address long-standing weaknesses stemming from the labor force’s challenges in the transport industry.
The moves are part of a one-year campaign to bolster U.S. supply chains against climate shocks and geopolitical tensions, to ensure that China or other nations cannot use weapons to deliver goods.
Biden focused on rebuilding U.S. supply chains following an acute shortage of personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a shortage of semiconductors that made cars more expensive and helped raise inflation to a 40-year high.
Speaking in front of three large trucks on the White House lawn, Biden noted that truckers transport about 70% of all goods in the United States. He noted that the average wages of truckers have fallen by almost 30% in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1978.
“In this cult American industry, it’s getting harder and harder to raise a family with dignity and pride,” Biden said.
Some carriers have to replace 90% of their workers each year, White House figures show. “It’s no surprise that so many drivers have left their jobs,” Biden said.
The American Truck Association announced last week that the weekly salary of drivers has increased by more than 25 percent for long-distance truck drivers since the beginning of 2019.
The plan to increase the number of truck drivers, launched in 2021, has increased employment, with more commercial driver’s licenses available in the first two months of this year compared to the same period last year, the statement said.
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