Arizona senator pledges to fix trucking industry by cutting red tape in new ad campaign

A former NASA astronaut and current US senator from the state of Arizona has released a new ad campaign focused on how he would solve labor issues in the trucking industry.

Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is re-elected in November, and part of his speech to his constituents is to address several issues within the trucking industry to reduce costs for consumers.

In a video that appears to have been filmed at a truck stop, Kelly claims “government bureaucracy” has contributed to a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers, which in turn has increased costs for consumers. He says reducing regulations will get the supply chain back on track and “help our truckers and their families.”

The “driver shortage” narrative Kelly mentioned has been pushed by groups like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) for decades. Other groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have long argued that “the real problem is high turnover and retention. Pay has been falling for years and conditions have not improved. Trucking needs to find a way to keep drivers instead of burning them out.

In February 2022, Kelly and Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis introduced the Now Safe and Efficient Individual Business Applicant Licensing Act (LICENSE).

The bill aims to alleviate supply chain issues by making permanent a few FMCSA waivers that were issued during the pandemic:

  • Allow state and third-party examiners previously authorized to administer the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) skills test to also administer the CDL knowledge test without having to take the training course.
  • Allow licensed drivers accompanying Learner’s Permit (CLP) holders to move from the front seat of a truck cab to its bunk.
  • Allow states to administer driving tests to applicants from other states.

The bill was referred to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee after it was introduced in February.

Other changes in the trucking industry that Kelly supported include the Truck Driver Apprenticeship pilot program for 18-21 year olds, more flexible hours of service rules, no increases to minimum federal insurance requirements for motor carriers, and increased DOT spending to increase the availability of truck parking.