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Driving Change: An Interview with Todd Ellis on the State of our Trucking Workforce.

Driving and Apprenticeships: Building the next generation of drivers. Photo of Todd Ellis.

The trucking industry plays a vital role in the U.S. supply chain, but longstanding recruitment and retention challenges in their workforce have made it challenging to meet today’s historic demands on the trucking industry.

That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration took action by proposing a clear set of steps to support drivers and a next-generation trucking workforce. Recently, Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su hosted an online listening session with members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to discuss strategies for improving trucking job quality, and for retaining and recruiting drivers. 

We caught up with Todd Ellis, a member of Teamsters Local 848 and a port driver in Long Beach, to ask him more about his driving job and how our administration can support the trucking workforce. 

What has your experience been as a union truck driver?

My story is neither unique or different from many of my peers. I’ve known too many drivers living check to check, only to have to pay for unexpected maintenance costs. I went through it too. Companies may provide training or other similar opportunities, but they don’t give a whole picture view of what new drivers may need to know. It’s when me and my fellow drivers voted to organize that we experienced better benefits and job security. From Day One the Teamsters had me and my family’s back. 

What was your path to becoming a driver?

Upon my release from rehab, I got my CDL license. It wasn’t easy. I had to jump through too many hoops just to get funding to start truck driving school. I had to prove my mental health treatment and sought counseling services to support. It wasn’t easy, but eventually I earned a commercial license, but I never got hands-on experience. After two years, I found this ports and container freight opportunity through my older sister who was, and still is, a driver shop steward and union organizer. I have been in The Ports since 2015 and a Teamsters union driver over two years now. Thanks to my union, I have quality healthcare, dental and vision. It’s not always easy, but now I have a voice and a say in my career and a say in my family’s financial future. 

What are the challenges the driving workforce faces? 

The path to entering this industry is more difficult than it should be. As the demand for drivers grows, we need to fill these jobs with experienced or better trained drivers. But it’s not easy finding those workers. Unions can help get better benefits, job security and way to get into the industry.  

Sourced from Us Dept of Labor

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