Project managers in remote areas are luring employees with signing and referral bonuses and per diems for housing, knowing they won’t be able to find enough workers locally.
Central Florida Transport, one of the state’s largest aggregate haulers, created a full-time driver advocate position to help its truck drivers with tasks that are tough to do during a busy workday, such as scheduling healthcare appointments or finding a loan broker.
“We wanted to do whatever possible to help solve their problems because we can’t afford to lose any drivers,” said Myron Bowlin, the company’s vice president.
Historically low U.S. unemployment, the economic rebound from Covid-19 and about $600 billion in transportation-specific funding expected from the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law have combined to exacerbate existing employee shortages in the construction industry.
Associated General Contractors of America, which represents more than 27,000 construction companies, said publicly funded transportation projects are routinely coming in at least 20% higher than government officials anticipated because of added labor costs, as well as inflationary factors such as higher prices for fuel and raw materials.
“The severity of the labor shortage means you’re paying workers more and your construction schedules are longer, both of which are big drivers in overall cost,” said Brian Turmail, the industry group’s vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives.
Moody’s Analytics projects that the bipartisan infrastructure law’s peak impact will be in the fourth quarter of 2025, when there will be about 872,000 more jobs as a result of all the projects across the country.
The higher labor costs could sap some of the value from what has been President Biden’s signature legislative achievement. Administration officials are working to address the workforce shortages, including hosting a “talent pipeline challenge” last week to develop workforce training programs for jobs in construction as well as broadband and electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.