President Obama is making comprehensive immigration reform a major goal for his second term, and in the wake of the 2012 presidential election many Republicans are saying the time has come to reconsider their party’s hardline stance. That could play into the driver shortage.

Discussions on Capitol Hill are in early stages yet, but among the ideas being discussed is opening a way for the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country to come out from the shadows and work legally.

President Obama’s plan, for example, would provide undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship by requiring them to pass background checks, pay taxes and a penalty, go to the back of the immigration line and learn English.

If citizenship is a step too far, politically, another idea on the table is to create a guest worker status for illegals.

Either alternative could significantly increase the number of potential truck drivers, although anyone interested in that work would have to meet FMCSA requirements for a CDL.

It’s an issue that American Trucking Associations is following with interest, said Dave Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs.

Driver demographics are changing and truck fleets are asking where they’ll find the next group of qualified drivers, he said.

“ATA is watching the development of immigration reform with a view toward the impact it might have on the driver shortage,” he said. “It’s one of a number of solutions, including the veterans programs.”

Osiecki anticipates that the issue will be discussed at the ATA leadership meeting coming up in May.