April 20, 2022

Senator Haskell Leads Passage of Legislation to Address Trucker Shortage, Reduce Recidivism

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee, led the Senate’s passage of legislation that would empower incarcerated people who are nearing the end of their sentence to earn a commercial learners’ permit. Incarcerated individuals who are re-entering the community within six months and retain eligibility to drive commercial vehicles would be given an opportunity to study for and take the knowledge test necessary to earn a Commerical Learners’ Permit. This bill is intended to both provide a pathway to good-paying jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals, helping to reduce recidivism, and also provide a robust workforce pipeline for the trucking industry during a period of supply chain challenges.

“Too often, folks re-entering society struggle to find a job after serving their time behind bars. Tragically, joblessness drives some of these individuals back into crime, and the vicious cycle of recidivism hampers opportunity and growth,” said Sen. Haskell. “Meanwhile, workforce shortages in the trucking industry have strained our supply chain, here in Connecticut and across the country. Our legislation aims to address both problems by helping incarcerated people who are nearing the date of their release to earn a Commercial Learner’s Permit. Entering society with this permit in hand, they’re likely to be recruited for paid apprenticeships, and they may soon find themselves earning over $60,000 per year. That’s a victory for those who are hoping to turn the page and start a new chapter in their life, and it’s a victory for our state’s economy. In short, this bill is a win-win.”

Senate Bill 334, “An Act Making The Commercial Driver’s License Knowledge Test Available To Certain Incarcerated Persons,” requires the commissioner of the Department of Corrections to provide space and technology for the administration and preparation of the knowledge test. The commissioner will also need to assign personnel and provide resources to administer testing in corrections facilities. Incarcerated persons who are disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle or who have lost driving privileges due to their criminal history will not be allowed to operate vehicles.

This legislation received support from a variety of sources – the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Department of Corrections, ACLU of Connecticut, Office of Workforce Strategy and Motor Transport Association of Connecticut all testified in support. Joe Sculley, President of the MTAC, testified that there is a severe shortage of truck drivers and the industry needs highly-motivated staff ready to work hard. He said the MTAC expects formerly incarcerated persons would fill that role. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving testified in support as well, noting that access to education and workforce development programs for incarcerated men and women are an essential strategy in preparing for employment and successful re-entry to society after incarceration.

The Department of Corrections noted in testimony that it plans to provide computer tablets to inmates, which it believes can be used to aid access to these programs.

This legislation passed the Transportation Committee in March by a 35-0 vote. It now heads to the House for further consideration.