North Dakota’s got milk. It just doesn’t have the truck drivers to deliver it.

“Farmers are still producing, bottlers are still putting it in jugs and cartons, but we’ve run into some challenges with being able to get it to stores, schools and nursing homes,” North Dakota Milk Marketing Board Director Lance Gaebe said.

Two major milk distributors, Red River Dairy and Lakeview Dairy, shut down last week — leaving 44 school districts in eastern North Dakota scrambling for milk.

Gaebe says there’s now just four or five milk distributors left in the state, a number that’s dwindled over the decades.

“Lots and lots of consolidation, additional costs, additional challenges with drivers and fuels and so forth, we’re having fewer and fewer of those dairy distributors,” Gaebe said.

Other distributors have stepped up to fill the need and all the schools have a distributor once again.

Prairie Farms in Bismarck added a truck to go to Devils Lake, Kemps/Cass Clay in Fargo is covering Fargo and a Casselton grocer who partnered with a retired distributor is focusing on Grand Forks.

“It’s going to be all hands on deck to try to resolve this problem,” Gaebe said.

Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive order is also trying to alleviate the problem by waiving hours of service requirements for 30 days for truck drivers delivering milk.

The number of CDL drivers has dropped over the last several years, and Job Service North Dakota currently shows more than 1,000 openings that require a CDL.

“Not having truck drivers 100% will put a large kink in the supply chain,” North Dakota Motor Carriers Association Board Member Kelly Krapu said.

Krapu says more shortages could be coming because of the COVID vaccine mandate for drivers crossing the Canadian border.

“You are going to see more issues with things getting on your local shelves in your stores in North Dakota the longer that vaccine mandate is in effect,” Krapu said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is trying to make the process of getting a CDL easier.

“We’re really ramping up our operations to provide more testing opportunities,” NDDOT Driver’s License Director Brad Schaffer said.

Schaffer says this month has had more driving tests scheduled than last year with more people trained to conduct testing.

“We have about 3,000 less CDL drivers in the last three to four years so we want to do whatever we can to help people get on the road that want to,” Schaffer said.

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.

Schaffer says the NDDOT sent out a letter Thursday to about 1,200 people who recently let their CDL expire to see if there’s interest in returning to the road.

Krapu said these job openings requiring a CDL are expected to grow over the next decade and with it, wages for the position.