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North Country officials call for streamlined process to obtain commercial driver licenses

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones
Assemblyman D. Billy Jones
Assemblyman D. Billy Jones

Some of the nationwide shortages in markets and industrial warehouses have been traced to a lack of commercial truck drivers. New York state Assemblyman D. Billy Jones is calling on the state to help ease the process for obtaining licenses and develop solutions to prevent future problems.

The average age of a professional truck driver in the U.S. is 55 and more are retiring than entering the profession. Since 2017 the driver shortage has increased 20 percent. The statistics from the American Trucking Association cited by North Country Chamber President Garry Douglas also indicate there could be a national shortage of truck drivers of over 160,000 by 2028. Douglas says it is a core factor in the two biggest current frustrations among business owners: finding workers and supply chain problems.

“It’s affecting manufacturers. It’s affecting retailers. You know how many of us have and are finding increasingly going into the grocery store or something for something you always buy there and that part of the self is empty. It’s becoming a very common thing. You know they didn't have enough drivers so the delivery didn’t get made. So we’re finding it in our consumer goods and even in our food supplies," says Douglas. "It’s happening in all kinds of sectors because they don’t have enough therefore there’s kind of an informal rationing occurring because there simply isn’t enough supply of whatever it is for people to freely get it. And it all centers around drivers.”

Democrat Jones, who represents New York’s 115th District, acknowledges that supply chain problems are a global issue but says the impacts are felt at the local level. He says New York needs to make the process to obtain a commercial license easier.

“This is 14 pages here, back and front. This is what you need to know and identify before you even start a vehicle up when you’re taking your CDL test. That’s a lot of stuff right there. And it’s a lot for somebody to memorize before they even start the vehicle up to drive the vehicle," says Jones. "We need to streamline this process a little bit in a safe way. As one highway superintendent and as one business owner described it to me I need truck drivers, not mechanics.”

Champlain Valley Educational Services is the BOCES serving school districts in Clinton, Essex, Warren and Washington counties. District Superintendent Dr. Mark Davey described two Commercial Driver License programs that are offered and then pivoted to the need for school bus drivers.

“At the time of this press conference 15 of our 16 component districts have a high need for school bus drivers. Fifteen out of sixteen. Not only that the need is so great one of our superintendents actually received his CDL school bus driver certification so that he could assure that his students, his district students, are able to have the same opportunities that everyone does," says Davey. "And to accentuate the importance of school bus drivers with the ongoing pandemic the lack of school bus drivers can be and will be a definite reason to have school districts have to go remote if they can’t transport the children to school.”

Assemblyman Jones secured funding for a tractor trailer to be used in the local BOCES training programs. But its delivery has been delayed due to supply chain issues.