Getting Answers: companies in need of commercial truck drivers

Some transportation companies said the process of getting a CDL license in Massachusetts has prospective drivers spinning their wheels.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 6:35 PM EST
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CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Commercial truck drivers are still in dire need nationwide and some transportation companies said the process of getting a CDL license in Massachusetts has prospective drivers spinning their wheels.

A truck driver shortage leading to empty store shelves during the pandemic.

“People quickly realized how important trucking was for their day-to-day needs,” said Heather Olson, recruiting manager with Regency Transportation.

Olson said the country is about 80,000 truck drivers short, which is an all-time high for the industry.

“We’re always trying to recruit. We’re always looking for safe and reliable and qualified drivers,” Olson added.

Becoming a qualified Class A driver isn’t easy. After commercial driver school, which can take one to three months and cost around $5,000, drivers must pass medical and written exams, and a road test administered by State Police. Applicants can be left waiting between two and eight weeks to be scheduled for a road test, according to a Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles spokesperson, who told Western Mass News:

“It’s important to point out that the backlog that is being raised includes people who have failed their initial exam and, upon failing, get put right back into the queue by the driving school. This artificially inflates the backlog total.”

In 2022, RMV records show that of the more than 19,000 CDL applicants, 67 percent passed and 33 percent failed, but those numbers don’t reflect how many tries it took to actually pass the CDL test. Olson said it takes an average of two to three tries to pass and get your CDL license, which can be time-consuming and costly.

“So you’re looking at an average of two to four months to actually getting your license, which can be kind of discouraging,” Olson explained.

The RMV said they and Mass. State Police are actively looking into the failure rates and plan to work closely with schools to prepare drivers to pass on their first attempt. Kevin Weeks, executive director of the Trucking Association of Massachusetts, told us any delay in getting drivers on the roads is problematic.

“It’s very unfortunate. People are looking to get into the industry and the industry desperately needs them and you can’t get them in quick enough,” Weeks said.

He believes a trooper shortage is partly to blame for the long wait times and said states that allow third parties to administer road tests, like New York, do not see the same delays.

“The ideal solution would be to somehow have the RMV and State Police oversee this, but somehow privatize it, so it’s people’s job to do this,” Weeks added.

Olson advised prospective drivers to do their research and make sure they understand all that goes into getting on the road.

“There is a written test, you’re having to do pre-trip, post-trip, making sure the air brakes work, so it’s a lot of involvement in order to test for your CDL,” Olson said.

However, she said if drivers stay the course, they can find job security, ever-changing scenery, and a paycheck of $90,000 to $120,000 a year.

A Mass. State Police spokesperson told Western Mass News that as a result of the CDL testing standards “the state of Massachusetts has earned the FMCSA’s award for lowest commercial crash fatality rate among medium-sized states every year since 2008.”