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Trucking Industry Feeling 'The Squeeze,' Facing Shortage Of Drivers Amid Holiday Rush

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Staffing shortages are happening all over, and one industry hit especially hard is trucking.

A shortage of drivers is just one of the many impacts.

It's a new chapter for Luisa Montero on the highways and roads in a mostly male-dominated industry.

"I want to travel and do a lot more," she said. "I'm not at all intimidated by it."

Because this woman knows how desperate the need is for truck drivers.

"There are people willing to do the work," Montero told CBS2's Cory James.

It's work decades-long drivers say there is plenty of, especially during the holidays when there's added pressure.

According to the American Trucking Association, the United States is down 80,000 big rig drivers. Before the pandemic, there was a shortage of 60,000 drivers across the country.

Experts say drivers retiring and leaving the business both before and after COVID played a role in the shortage.

"Mostly because it's long hours and a lot of guys spend a lot of time away from home," one driver said.

"It would be nice to have more drivers out here," Melford Myrie said.

Myrie delivers packages for a major transportation company.

"I work about six days now, and sometimes I have to work seven," he said. "Not so many drivers out here like it used to be."

"It's an issue," labor shortage analyst Phillip Patrick said.

Patrick tells CBS2 that 68% of all freight is moved on U.S. highways, however, fewer delivery drivers are impacting your wallets, raising the cost of goods and services about 20%.

"At the end of the day, everything is supply and demand, right? If demand is there and supply is tight, it leads to higher prices," Patrick said.

But truck driver trainer Giancarlo Pinto tells CBS2 getting New Yorkers behind the wheel is not a problem.

He says thousands of his students have faced delays with their commercial driver's license, or CDL, appointments.

"Testing delays are about 10 weeks to get a road test appointment," Pinto said. "It's definitely contributing to the shortage."

The Trucking Association of New York wants to change that with third-party testing. It would allow companies outside the state's licensing system to test students and certify them for CDLs.

"There's some legislative and regulatory changes that need to be made to allow that, but I'm confident that we're going be able to move in that direction," said Kendra Hems, president of the Trucking Association of New York.

Other solutions could be self-driving semi-trucks that are currently being tested or young drivers on the road. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed a bill lowering the minimum CDL age from 21 to 18, a decision sparking some outrage.

"Teenagers should not be pulled from high school hallways and put onto high-speed highways," said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "It's one of the most dangerous professions. Segments of the industry have been opposing requirements for safety technology, and they get paid for the miles, so if the wheels ain't turning, they ain't earning."

Montero, 26, just got her regular driver's license back in March.

"You're now planning on getting behind the wheel of a semi-truck?" James asked.

"Yeah," Montero said.

"Bold," James said.

"I'm not bad at it, either," Montero said.

She hopes to join other truckers, like Myrie, who says despite the stress of the job, he is fueled by the display of love people show at the door.

"We didn't get that attention before. Now we do, and it's nice," he said.

Kindness they could use while trying to drive an entire industry back on track.

In a statement regarding those testing delays, the New York State DMV said in part, "None of the testing locations anywhere in the state show a delay of 10 weeks. The average wait for a road test is currently less than three weeks. The average wait time in NYC is even shorter."

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