(WPMI) — BALDWIN COUNTY, AL (WPMI) — The national trucker shortage, exacerbated by the epidemic, is now creating concerns about safety as experienced drivers exit the sector and are replaced by new truckers.

The trucking industry has the problem of increasing driver capacity to fulfill the demands of an overcrowded supply chain while simultaneously ensuring that those behind the wheel are prepared to do so safely.

Mark Colson, President of the Alabama Trucking Association, stated that a concerted effort is now ongoing to generate not just new drivers, but also well-trained truckers.

“The high demand in this country may jeopardize any enterprise. People want their belongings transported quickly. However, safety is critical in all we do “Colson stated.

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Colson stated that between 3,000 and 5,000 truck drivers will need to be replaced over the next few years, in part because of the pandemic closure, which stopped training schools and extended the gap between retiring and new drivers.

“Many insurance policies require that drivers have between two and three years of experience before getting behind the wheel of a truck. However, unless you’re driving a truck, how can you acquire the two to three years?” Colson explained.

Colson stated that the duration of instruction varies from two and four weeks for private programs and six to eight weeks for public institutions.

According to Colson, the training consists of both a written exam and a commercial driving test, but efforts are being made to further expand instruction.

“I believe that the duration of a program is not indicative of its quality; rather, it is the result. That is why we are investigating apprenticeship and mentorship models in which an experienced driver coaches a younger driver. Numerous businesses are embracing this strategy “Colson stated.

Colson stated that the US Department of Transportation has also strengthened curriculum criteria for new drivers, which will take effect on February 7th, 2022.

“If a program is effective, it is because the instructor is successful and the institution or industry supports the educator. That is something we have made a determined effort to do “Colson explained.

Colson said that efforts are also being made to develop new methods of educating entry-level drivers, such as increased hands-on experience and virtual choices.