(The Center Square) — A Georgia study committee has developed a series of recommendations aimed at helping recruit more truck drivers in the state, including removing a provision that allows plaintiffs to target a carrier’s insurance company for damages.
Among the recommendations, developed after four meetings around the state, the Senate Study Committee on Truck Driver Shortages wants the Georgia Department of Driver Services to increase the efficiency of administering commercial driver’s license tests.
The committee also recommended better educating younger Georgians about the benefits of a career in trucking, working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to increase public truck parking and working with the state’s congressional delegation to tackle federal regulations.
“Georgia can lead the nation in tackling the truck driver shortage and I am confident that our recommendations will set the stage for positive change,” state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R–Dallas, said in an announcement.
However, the most controversial provision might be a suggestion to repeal the state’s direct action statute. Under the provision, attorneys can seek damages directly from a carrier’s insurance provider following a wreck.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers considered Senate Bill 191, which would repeal provisions authorizing the “joinder” of a motor carrier and its insurance carrier in cases. Lawmakers didn’t act before the end of this year’s session and could revisit the measure when they reconvene starting next month.
A Democrat on the committee said repealing the direct action statute will not help ease the driver shortage and said allowing Georgians “to directly sue the insurance company is incredibly important because it is often the only possible remedy.”
In the minority report included with the committee’s recommendations, state Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes, D-Duluth, said it is “crucial to distinguish between a labor shortage and high industry turnover rate” and “the claim of driver shortage often stems from the immediate need for specialized and experienced drivers, as opposed to a general shortage of drivers.”
“In close, while it may seem like there is a trucker shortage in Georgia, the issue is far more nuanced,” the senator wrote. “The industry’s problems, like all industries facing hiring shortages right now, are more associated with a high turnover rate, need for specialized drivers, low driver utilization rate, and untapped demographic groups than with an actual shortage of drivers.
“By understanding and addressing these issues, Georgia’s trucking industry can effectively eradicate the illusion of a labor shortage,” she added. “Repealing the direct-action statute will not contribute to addressing truck driver shortages. It is a proposed solution with no causal evidence to support it, and it will negatively impact Georgians.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor