ND looking to load trains for driver shortage

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 4:17 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota has a truck-driver shortage. According to state lawmakers, the answer isn't the size of the workforce; it's the size of the trucks. Which is why they're working on a resolution to let the state exceed length and weight limits.

The American Trucking Association reports that the nation is short more than 60,000 drivers. And that number could go up 160,000 drivers by 2028.

To make up ground, the state legislature is teaming up with its neighboring states to form a National Road Train network.

The pandemic might have slowed down transportation needs, but that was merely a break in a long-running issue.

“The restrictions on drivers, the capabilities of the work force, acquiring people that maybe shouldn’t be allowed in the trucks themselves are driving that number and the problem is increasing,” Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, said.

To combat the shortage, lawmakers want to allow some trucks to pull two or three trailers at a time.

While the committee of lawmakers look to D.C., Minot Sen. Oley Larsen is seeking the governor’s help, and proposed a bill giving him the power to allow road trains by executive order.

“There is absolutely the authority for the Governor to make changes, and nothing seems to be ruining the roads by us following the current truck trains we’re doing now,” Larsen said.

Earlier this year, Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., issued an executive order lifting only weight restrictions on certain roads.

Weight restrictions are meant to protect the roads integrity. But, lawmakers are confident the roads can handle it and that the benefits will outweigh the costs.

“I think if we give industry a little bit of leeway as far as encouragement to do something more, they will take it upon themselves to figure out the efficiencies,” Luick said.

And as interstate commerce continues to rebound, lawmakers hope this will match an increased demand for transportation.

The State’s Transportation Department is receiving $17 million from the CARES Act. But unlike other CARES Act funds, these dollars don’t expire at the end of the year. And according to department surveys, there are some holes in transportation needs.

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