Questions about roads and infrastructure repair, and how to encourage more young people and women to pursue careers in the trucking industry were raised at a Friday afternoon visit by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen to Skagit Transportation west of Mount Vernon.
Skagit Transportation, founded in 1947, transports mostly agriculture, food and seafood products throughout the region, company president Dan Boffey said.
He said maintaining infrastructure and reducing traffic congestion are some of the company’s top concerns.
Larsen, a Democrat who represents the 2nd Congressional District that includes San Juan County and parts of Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties, is the only member of the Washington congressional delegation on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
He said he supports a user fee connected to road use to pay for transportation projects, and a tax on alternative fuel sources such as electricity.
“User fees on (fuel sources) should be equitable,” he said.
Sheri Call, executive vice president of the Washington Trucking Associations, a nonprofit which advocates for the state’s trucking industry, said another priority is changing laws to allow triple trailers in Washington.
Larger trucks could help reduce the number of trips, congestion, fuel use and carbon emissions, she said.
Two bills introduced in Congress address young people and women in the trucking industry.
Call said the Drive Safe Act would allow 18- to 21-year-olds to become interstate truck drivers and require special training for them. Currently, drivers in that age range are not allowed to cross state lines.
“If we get younger drivers, they might stick with the industry,” she said.
Women make up less than 10% of truck drivers, and another bill is seeking to change that, Call said.
“It’s helping women understand that trucking isn’t the job it used to be — it’s mostly driving and being organized,” she said.
Beth Lee, director of safety & driver services for Skagit Transportation, drove a truck for 10 years for Draper Valley Farms. She said Skagit Transportation employs several women, and there is growing interest.
“I love driving,” she said. “It’s a great career.”
In 2018, an average of 623 people were employed in truck transportation in Skagit County, with an average wage of $55,466, according to data from the state Employment Security Department.
Statewide, there were nearly 140,000 trucking jobs, according to a fact sheet from the Washington Trucking Associations. Nearly 80% of communities depend exclusively on trucks to transport goods, and 80% of manufactured tonnage in the state is moved by truck, the fact sheet states.