Ensuring schools still receive milk despite milk truck driver shortage in ND

Published: Jan. 29, 2022 at 7:25 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - There is a shortage of CDL milk truck drivers in North Dakota. As a result, 50 school districts around the state were put on notice they might not get enough product for daily school lunch programs.

It would be difficult to overstate milk’s importance to children’s growing bodies.

“In order to grow your bones, you need vitamin D and calcium. And after about age 20, you can’t pack it in anymore. You can barely keep it up with just replacing, but you can’t store it,” said Deb Egeland, assistant director of child nutrition at North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

Nutritionists say kids should be drinking milk every day. But recent factors like a shortage of milk truck drivers, a limited supplies of milk cartons, and last week’s shutting down of two milk distributors in the eastern part of the state has threatened that.

“There were between 45 and 50 schools that were informed last week that they might not get milk, so that was really our first focus, was to make sure that those schools don’t get shorted,” said Lance Gaebe, director of the North Dakota Milk Marketing Board.

On short notice, milk distributors from around the state have picked up some slack to make sure school children get their milk.

“Cass Clay said they would take some, Prairie Farms said they would take some, these two retired guys who used to do milk routes and run a grocery store, they took the rest. Some people, they are getting theirs delivered to their grocery store, like at Cando, and they have to go pick it up from their grocery store, but at least they get it to their town,” said Egeland.

Although there were distribution issues, officials are clear about what the issue is.

“There is not a shortage of milk in North Dakota, so don’t go running out and trying to stock up your refrigerator. We’ve got milk, it’s just right now, there’s a bit of a glitch trying to get it from point A to point B,” said Gaebe.

Officials say the problem won’t really be resolved until there are more truck drivers, in all industries.

In response to the milk truck driver shortage, Governor Doug Burgum signed an executive order on Monday to allow milk truck drivers to work more hours. Additionally, he is working with Department of Transportation officials to speed up the process of getting a commercial driver’s license. Today, the average wait time for a CDL test is 10.5 days, down from an average of 80 days in 2019.

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