By Clint Thompson
One Georgia farmer believes there are changes that could be made to the current truck driving system that would attract more drivers. The first is reducing the minimum age required to drive on the roads, says Kent Hamilton, owner and CEO of Southern Valley in Norman Park, Georgia.
“Some things I’ve heard is reducing the age requirement for someone to get a CDL from 21 to 18. When someone is out of school at the age of 18 and then they’ve got to wait until they’re 21 before they go into a career, a lot of those younger people are finding something else to go into just because they can’t sit around and wait for three years before they can get their CDLs and become a truck driver,” Hamilton said. “I think reducing the age requirement to 18 would make a big difference.”
The lack of truck drivers is a major problem for vegetable and specialty crop producers trying to ship their crops. It is only going to worsen. According to Tra Williams, owner and president of Fleetforce Truck Driving School in Winter Haven, Florida. At least 1,200 truck drivers retire every week, which equates to 5,000 per month and 60,000 per year. There is a current shortage of between 80,000 and 100,000 truck drivers, which will only increase over the next decade.
“We’re not going to replace those truckers overnight. That’s a lot of drivers to have to replace,” Hamilton said.
There are other potential remedies as well.
“Another thing that’s been kicked around is relaxing some of the e-log laws. This isn’t a problem that just started now. This started back when they implemented e-logs,” Hamilton said. “Used to, you had career truckers, those guys got out and ran the roads, and some of them would drive 24 hours or 36 hours straight. They stopped all of that and when they did, a lot of those truckers got out of the business. I think if they relaxed some of that, it would allow career guys to go back and doing that, running hard like they used to run. I think that would make a big difference.”
Increasing the weight limit on trucks and the use of driverless trucks could be other long-term solutions for the current driver shortage.