(The Center Square) – Maryland is a linchpin for the logistics industry on the East Coast, the head of the Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA) said.

With its ports, interstate corridors, and warehouses, MMTA President and CEO Louis Campion told The Center Square the state has prime north-south access along the I-95 corridor and excellent east-west access with the I-70 corridor. The Port of Baltimore ranks at the top in the nation for automobile imports.

The Seagirt Marine Terminal at the Port of Baltimore. Credit: WWK Photography / Shutterstock.com

“If you think about it, within Maryland itself, for example, 93% of Maryland communities are exclusively dependent on trucks for their goods,” he said. “They have no rail, they have no water access, for example, all of their goods arrive on trucks. So, it kind of gives you a sense of the industry’s importance.”

In 2020, the trucking industry in the state paid approximately $499 million in state and federal roadway taxes, according to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute and the MMTA. The industry paid 31% of all taxes owed by Maryland motorists though they represented 6% of vehicle miles traveled in the state. Trucks drove 3.1 billion miles on Maryland roads that year.

More than 162,000 manufactured tons, according to the report, were transported by trucks in Maryland every day in 2017.

Maryland has many major distribution centers, with Amazon having multiple locations. The warehouse centers include Tradepoint Atlantic in Baltimore County at the old Sparrows Point and at the Bethlehem Steel location.

The state is no different than the rest of the nation. The current projected national truck driver shortage is around 80,000 drivers, Campion said. An impromptu survey a year ago of his board members who head 23 trucking companies revealed they had a combined need for 650 drivers.

While a driver shortage might help create delays in shipments, it isn’t the biggest problem that he sees with supply chain issues. Warehouses are jammed full.

Campion isn’t sure if the logistics industry is getting the help it needs from the state or the federal government.

“But what I will say is that the Biden administration has really prioritized efforts to try and promote truck driving careers. They’re recognizing some of the challenges,” he said.

A federal trucking action plan is trying to address shortages by using apprenticeship programs to reduce barriers or delays in earning a CDL that may be administrative in nature, he said. Outreach is being conducted to the military, veterans, women and minorities to expand the pool of potential drivers.

A prospective driver can complete a CDL program at many of Maryland’s training schools here in three months. Most of those classes are jammed, which he said is a great thing.

“For roughly $5,000 you can come out in 12 weeks and have a commercial driver’s license that can give you an opportunity to move into a starting $50,000 a year job pretty quickly,” he said. “Which is a lot more than I think many college students are coming out with.”

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