State lawmakers launched a four-part plan Wednesday to help trucking companies fill thousands of job openings.
A series of bills were introduced addressing various problems that have put the industry in crisis, according to state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, the author of one of the bills.
Lawmakers say there aren’t enough people interested in the profession and changes are needed to help the industry attract new talent.
“The trucking industry is in crisis and because they are in crisis our economy is in crisis,” Antani said. “Every single good moves on a truck. When you buy a car, a desk, chair or pencil, it came on a truck to the store where you are buying it from the manufacturer.”
Antani’s bill would explore ways to help companies obtain insurance for younger drivers. He said insurance for drivers under age 25 is either too costly or not available.
“Typically if you have a trucking company of 100 drivers, they will insure five to 10 at age 21 to 24. Right now if you are 18 to 20 you just cannot get insurance,” Antani said.
Other proposals are also aimed at putting more people behind the wheel of a big rig. They include providing scholarships and loans — $2,500 scholarships for up to 1,000 students and a loan of the same amount — to those who want to attend truck-driver schools, and tax credits of up to $25,000 to companies that provide on-the-job training programs for drivers.
Tom Balzer, president and CEO of the Ohio Trucking Association, said the industry has about 50,000 job openings for drivers across the country. He pointed to the scholarships and tax credits as a way to attract new talent.
“These are jobs that pay very well, have great benefits and are never going to be off-shored,” he said. “They are always going to be there, always going to be available.”
The changes backed by the industry would be a particular benefit to the Miami Valley, according to Balzer.
“You have I-70 and I-75 and the crossroads,” he said. “That area has such an immense amount of commerce that goes through there that people are always looking for truck drivers in that particular region.”
Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, eases the way for veterans to transfer their truck driving experience into a civilian job when they return to the states. “When men and women separate from the military they bring a lot of different skills to the table and one of them is being a truck driver,” LaRose said.
LaRose, who served as a Green Beret, said he drove a truck and other heavy equipment while in the Army.
“I can tell you driving on the narrow and winding roads of Kosovo in a flatbed tractor-trailer is certainly great training and it certainly prepared me to safely operate a vehicle here.” LaRose said.