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Emergency measures to address disrupted milk distribution

BISMARCK – A shortage of truck drivers in the milk distribution industry has prompted North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum to impose emergency measures to ensure supplies to schools, businesses and other customers.

Burgum on Tuesday signed an executive order waiving hours of service requirements for 30 days for truck drivers delivering milk in N.D. The order comes after the N.D. Milk Marketing Board voted 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 N.D. 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. N.D. currently has 49,858 drivers with a commercial driver’s license, down from 52,824 in 2017.

“Our actions today are only a temporary fix for a much larger challenge,” Burgum said. “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,” N.D. Agriculture Commissioner Doug 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 N.D. Job Service website www.jobsnd.com 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 N.D. 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.

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