RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Nationwide, the trucking industry is short more than 78,000 drivers, with 1,500 to 1,800 of those openings in Virginia. 

Plus, the American Trucking Association estimates companies will need to hire 1.2 million additional drivers in the next 10 years to meet demand. 

In 2022, the Virginia Trucking Association partnered with Virginia Ready, a non-profit dedicated to re-skilling Virginians for in-demand careers. 

Virginia Trucking Association President and CEO Dale Bennett said in 18 months the program has put 1000 drivers behind the wheel with more on the way. 

“Currently, they have about 1,200 folks with CDLs that are actively looking for jobs, and we are doing our best to find those for them,” Bennett said. “Then, they have another 400 or so in the pipeline.”

Bennett said the problem is new truck drivers are merely filling what companies are losing due to retirements and turnover.

To fix that, Bennett wants Congress to pass a law allowing truck drivers ages 18-20 to drive trucks across state lines. In 2021, the federal government launched a pilot program evaluating the possibility. 

“In Virginia, that means a 19-year-old with a proper license can drive a tractor-trailer from Norfolk, Virginia to Bristol, Virginia, but can’t drive that tractor-trailer across Main Street from Bristol, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee,” Bennett said.

Bennett added that over 80% of the goods manufactured in Virginia are transported by truck. He also said that without truck drivers, people would not be able to get the products they depend on.