US driver shortage worries agri trucking firms

The current pandemic is driving more and more truck drivers out of their cabs, which is causing haulers and food processors to fear there won't be enough people available to transport the summer harvest.

John Larrea is the director of governmental affairs at the California League of Food Producers. According to him, during the carrot and onion harvests in the Southern California desert, ‘the trucking companies are telling us that they're already seeing anywhere between 25 and 30% fewer drivers than they had before’.

Joe Antonini, who runs a Stockton-based trucking company that's heavily engaged in seasonal agricultural hauling, has the same experience. He said he's been able to hire 35% fewer drivers than at the same time last year. "It's becoming more and more difficult," he said, adding that the pandemic and resulting federal actions contribute to the problem. further quoted Antonini as saying: "Many of the drivers are telling us and other carriers that catching COVID is a concern for them, so they may not want to come back to work for that. The enhanced and extended relief efforts, economic relief, is holding some of them out, as is the vaccine availability."

With vaccine eligibility expanding, he added, "we're hopeful that some of these folks will come back to work."

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