Consumers are traveling more than ever, but some lawmakers in Congress are worried there soon won’t be enough transportation workers to get people where they’re going.
Three members of the House have introduced the Promoting Service in Transportation Act, which would authorize the government to spend up to $30 million on an ad campaign urging people to go into the transportation industry.
The bipartisan legislation is backed by Representatives Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Don Young (R-Alaska), and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who say there is a need for more airline pilots, air traffic controllers, truck drivers, and railroad workers.
One industry group says the need for aviation workers is growing especially fast, with 800,000 pilots, 769,000 technicians, and 20,000 air traffic controllers needed over the next decade. Selena Shilad, executive director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, says the need is becoming critical.
“For this reason, it is incredibly important that we foster enthusiasm in flying and ensure that the many talented, skilled workers across our country are aware of the vast opportunities that exist within the aviation industry,” Shilad said. “We applaud the introduction of this legislation, which will help to address these challenges and increase awareness of career opportunities in the transportation sector, including aviation pilots, safety inspectors and technicians, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, truck drivers, engineers, transit workers, railroad workers, and other transportation professionals.”
The need for truck drivers is currently driving the pay for that job higher. At the beginning of the year, Walmart announced an increase in the amount it is paying its drivers, as booming sales put even more cargo on the road. By March, there was growing concern that the trucker shortage would result in higher prices for consumers.
Transportation officials say the trucking industry will need 60,000 to 100,000 more drivers each year over the next decade to keep freight moving.
The legislation would not only urge people to consider careers in transportation. Lawmakers say the act would specifically target minorities and women to increase diversity in the workforce. An estimated 90 percent of professional airline pilots and truck drivers are white males.
While employment in major industry sectors has increased in 2019, transportation job growth has lagged — not because jobs aren’t available but because fewer people are applying them. As competition has increased for transportation workers, their salaries have risen.
The median salary of an airline pilot is $130,000 a year. The median pay for a truck driver for a private fleet is $73,000, while the Labor Department puts the median pay for all truck drivers at around $40,000.