The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently selected 35 representatives, including two from the American Trucking Associations and one from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, to become voting members of its newly created Surface Transportation Security Advisory Committee.
Voting members will serve two-year terms and report to TSA Administrator David Pekoske on surface transportation security matters.
“Trucking is the linchpin of the nation’s supply chain,” said John Kearney, CEO of Advanced Training Systems, which designs and manufactures virtual simulators for driver training and other applications. “The TSA clearly understands that drivers will be front and center in remaining on the alert for supply-related threats.”
Trucks transport a significant portion of the more than 3 billion tons of hazardous material shipped in the US every year. The most common cargoes are flammable liquids, in particular gasoline, which need to be transported on a frequent basis. The US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration estimates there are more than 800,000 hazardous materials shipments every day.
A major obstacle to the unimpeded flow of these shipments, both from a safety and logistical standpoint, is a severe and growing shortage of long-haul truck drivers. Recent estimates put the shortage at 60,000 drivers—a number that could easily reach 100,000 in a few years. To close the gap, the National Association of Chemical Distributors, among others, has been lobbying for the passage of the 2018 DRIVE-Safe Act, which would lower the federal age requirement for interstate drivers from 21 to 18, thus opening a solid career path to millions of recent high-school graduates.
Electronic simulators such as those routinely used in training airline pilots, Kearney said, can and should play a major role in preparing the coming cohort of new long-haul truckers. One significant advantage of simulators over traditional behind-the-wheel training is equipment cost: simulator training is substantially less expensive than an actual tractor-trailer highway rig. Another, and in some ways more important advantage, is the ability, in a simulator, to encounter and learn to cope with driving situations that are either too rare or too dangerous for behind-the-wheel training, such as black ice, blinding snow, or heavy winds.
“This is standard for the aviation industry,” Kearney said. “And it should be for the motor freight industry as well. The nation’s economy—and the security of its supply chain—depend on a corps of technologically adept, well-trained operators ready to deal with any situation they encounter.
“They deserve the best possible training, and we deserve for them to have it.”