COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A group of lawmakers wants to spend millions of taxpayers to put more truck drivers on Ohio roads. In a four-bill package, lawmakers intend the bills to fill what they call a growing gap in the trucking industry, but some are calling the bills a waste of time and money.
The bills include eight million total tax dollars that will provide more scholarships for new drivers to pay for trucking school and provide tax credits for trucking companies to help pay for driver training. The bills also make it easier for trucking companies to get insurance for young drivers and make it easier for military veterans to get jobs in the trucking industry.
The bills were introduced by Representatives Niraj Antani, Representative Ryan Smith, Representative Robert Sprague, and Senator Frank LaRose. They seek to fill thousands of currently open trucking jobs in Ohio. The bills have support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but not everyone in the trucking industry.
“We are looking at a driver shortage of about 50,000 nationwide,” Said Tom Balzer with the Ohio Trucking Association. Balzer and that organization support the new legislation. Trucking is big business in Ohio, as the state offers one-day delivery to 60 percent of the country. According to Balzer if the number of drivers continues to decline, it creates big problems for retailers and your wallet, “We are the rolling inventory, the rolling of the economy,” Balzer added.
But spending eight million taxpayer dollars paying for new driver training may not solve the problem, “The shortage carriers want to talk about, is actually a retention problem,” Monte Wiederhold said. Wiederhold is with the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, who calls the legislation a waste of money and time, “It’s basically just subsidizing training when there is not a need for it,” he added.
Wiederhold said the driver shortage is due to high job turnover. He believes trucking carriers need to pay more and offer competitive benefits, “For a lot of carriers, it works for them because they keep wages low and they never get paid any benefits out,” Wiederhold said.
While the two sides disagree on the way to fix the problem, they agree the trucking industry needs some tweaking, or down the road retailers will end up paying more to ship goods, and pass that cost onto consumers.
Although it’s not an exact indicator of the number of new truck drivers, the State of Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles reports the number of Commercial Drivers Licenses handed out has fallen by about 9,000 since 2012.
This legislation is still active and expected to be debated this session.