The Pet Food Institute (PFI) commends President Biden on the inclusion of a key trucking pilot program in the recently-enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Signed into law on November 15, IIJA includes $550 billion in new spending over five years for revitalizing America’s aging roads, bridges, inland waterways and making broadbrand access more affordable for low-income Americans. Also included in this bill is a pilot program that will establish new training programs to attract younger commercial drivers into the workforce. Seventy percent of the country’s freight is carried by commercial trucking, and it is a vital partner in the transportation of pet food ingredients and finished products. The American Trucking Associations now estimates 80,000 truckers are currently needed to help address the supply chain challenges impacting the United States, but only 8,000 were added in October 2021.
Earlier this year, PFI joined a broad coalition in support of the DRIVE-Safe Act, now a provision in the IIJA. Although 49 states and the District of Columbia currently allow individuals under the age of 21 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate in intrastate commerce, these same individuals are prohibited from driving a truck across state lines until they turn 21. The DRIVE-Safe Act changes this through a rigorous two-step apprenticeship program that creates a path for these drivers to enter the industry and maintains a strong commitment to safety through additional training.
With IIJA signed into law, qualified 18-20-year-old commercial drivers license holders will soon have access to the necessary training to join the trucking workforce and more importantly, drive across state lines, thereby easing pressure with the current shortage of truck drivers. The Department of Transportation will stand up the pilot program within 60 days. PFI continues to work with diverse industries and broad coalitions seeking to find common-sense solutions to lowering prices for agricultural inputs and ways to untangle the current challenges impacting America’s supply chain.