BISMARCK — Governor Doug Burgum and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring announced emergency measures designed to ease a shortage of truck drivers in the milk distribution industry that has affected schools, businesses, and other customers.
Burgum signed an executive order waiving hours of service requirements for 30 days for truck drivers delivering milk in North Dakota. The order comes after the North Dakota Milk Marketing Board voted earlier this week to waive enforcement of certain licensing requirements until April 1, which will promote coordination among distributors and allow deliveries of milk to rural areas to continue.
The emergency measures come after a major milk distributor in North Dakota went out of business, due in part to a lack of certified drivers, putting rural consumers and more than 50 school districts at risk of losing milk deliveries. North Dakota currently has 49,858 drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), down from 52,824 in 2017.
“We’re grateful for the efforts of the Milk Marketing Board and the distributors who stepped up to ensure that students and other North Dakota citizens can continue to receive reliable milk deliveries,” Burgum said. “Our actions today are only a temporary fix for a much larger challenge, however. We are committed to fostering the innovations needed to get government out of the way and encourage more drivers to enter the workforce. Over the coming weeks, the Department of Transportation will continue to focus on reducing wait times at DOT testing locations and working with third-party testers to expand testing opportunities.”
“I applaud both the Milk Marketing Board waiving enforcement of certain requirements, and the North Dakota Department of Transportation expediting CDL renewals, to ensure that businesses, nursing homes, senior citizen centers, and schools have access to milk,” Goehring said. “We have adequate production and processing of milk. Our concerns lie with access to containers for processors, labor issues within the supply chain, and a major shortage of drivers.”
Burgum and Goehring also approved sending a letter encouraging drivers who have allowed their CDL to expire to consider renewal, noting the North Dakota Job Service website currently lists more than 1,000 job opportunities that require a CDL.
Drivers who previously held a CDL but have allowed it lapse are not required to go through the new federal requirements of the Entry Level Driving Training to renew their CDL and return to driving, according to NDDOT Director Bill Panos, who also will be signing the letter with Col. Brandon Solberg, superintendent of the North Dakota Highway Patrol.
The NDDOT is taking several steps to reduce CDL testing wait times to 14 days by April, including training six additional team members to conduct CDL testing; holding CDL testing blitzes in Devils Lake, Dickinson, Jamestown, and Williston; establishing a self-testing program for private sector trucking companies; and working with Bismarck State College to establish a university testing program to free up CDL testing at state offices.
The current average wait time for a CDL test at NDDOT locations is 10.5 days, which is down from an average of 80 days in 2019.
“The opportunities for CDL drivers are plentiful in North Dakota,” said Panos. “Our team is committed to making the process of getting a CDL as quick and efficient as possible.”