Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said his port had told the White House in July that about 30 percent of the port’s appointments for truckers went unused every day, largely because of shortages of drivers, the chassis they use to pull the loads and warehouse workers to unload items from trucks.
“Here in the port complex, with all this cargo, we need more drivers,” Mr. Seroka said.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the House passed last week could help mitigate the shortage. The legislation includes a three-year pilot apprenticeship program that would allow commercial truck drivers as young as 18 to drive across state lines. In most states, people under 21 can receive a commercial driver’s license, but federal regulations restrict them from driving interstate routes.
But industry experts said the program was unlikely to fix the immediate problem, given that it could take months to get underway and the fact that many people simply do not want to drive trucks.
Mr. Biden said last month that he would consider deploying the National Guard to alleviate the trucker shortage, although a White House official said the administration was not actively pursuing the move.
Meera Joshi, the deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said the agency had focused on easing the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license after states cut back licensing operations during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has also extended the hours that certain drivers can work.
“They are the absolute backbone of a big part of our supply chain,” Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, said about truckers at a White House briefing on Monday. “We need to respect and, in my view, compensate them better than we have.”
The shortage has alarmed trucking companies, which say there are not enough young people to replace those aging out of the work force. The stereotypes attached with the job, the isolating lifestyle and younger generations’ focus on pursuing four-year college degrees have made it difficult to entice drivers. Trucking companies have also struggled to retain workers: Turnover rates have reached as high as 90 percent for large carriers.