Three members of Congress have proposed $30 million for an ad campaigns over six years to raise awareness about careers in transportation — including the trucking industry — while promoting diversity in the workforce.
The Promoting Service in Transportation Act, introduced Nov. 15 by U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen, D-Wash.; Don Young, R-Alaska; and Angie Craig, D-Minn., authorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop a series of broadcast, digital and print media public service announcement campaigns during fiscal years 2021-2026, with $5 million in funding provided for each of those years.
According to the bill's language, the goal of the campaigns would be to "increase awareness of career opportunities in the transportation sector, including aviation pilots, safety inspectors, mechanics and technicians, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, truck drivers, engineers, transit workers, railroad workers, and other transportation professionals." The campaigns would also attempt to "increase diversity, including race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status" of professionals in the sector.
"The need for more professional airline pilots, air traffic controllers, railroad workers and truck drivers, among other professions, grows as industry stakeholders face increased competition worldwide," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. They assert that in addition to more than 800,000 pilots, 769,000 technicians and 20,000 air traffic controllers the aviation industry will need to meet demand over the next 10 years, the trucking industry will need 60,000-100,000 additional drivers each year.
"Not only does the transportation workforce face significant shortages, there is also a diversity issue: over 90 percent of professional airline pilots and truck drivers are white males," they stated. "To meet these goals and develop a more diverse workforce, transportation opportunities should be better promoted to all Americans."
The lawmakers list 14 labor-related associations and organizations supporting the measure, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).
"TCA applauds Representatives Larsen, Young, and Craig for their forward-thinking efforts to expand public awareness of the career opportunities available in the transportation industry," David Heller, TCA's vice president of government affairs, told FreightWaves in a statement. "These well-paying jobs will serve as the backbone of our nation's economy for decades to come, and with our country's evolving demographic makeup, more needs to be done to reach out to women and minorities."
With demand for qualified truck drivers at "an all-time high" and continuing to increase, TCA sees the legislation "as a meaningful way to help bridge the gap by attracting new workers into the market," he added.
In a truck driver employment forecast issued in July, American Trucking Associations (ATA) found that the industry needed 60,800 more drivers at the end of 2018 to meet demand, up 20% from 50,700 estimated last year. It noted that the number could jump to over 100,000 drivers in five years and 160,000 by 2028.
Last month the American Transportation Research Institute revealed that a shortage of for-hire long-haul drivers topped their list of the 10 biggest challenges facing the trucking industry.
The legislation follows a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to take a more active role in promoting women in trucking.
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