Bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate and House introduced legislation in February that addresses the shortage of truck drivers — a shortage that may be affecting the movement and cost of commerce, industry officials said.
The DRIVE-Safe Act modernizes federal law to empower the trucking industry to fill employment gaps with a “qualified, highly trained emerging workforce.’’ The measure is co-sponsored by Senators Todd Young, (R-Ind.); Jon Tester, (D-Mont.); Tom Cotton, (R-Ark.); Angus King, (I-Maine); Jim Inhofe, (R-Okla).; Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.); and Jerry Moran, (R-Kan.); and Representatives Trey Hollingsworth, (R-Ind.); Jim Cooper, (D-Tenn.); Henry Cuellar, (D-Texas); Al Green, (D-Texas); and Sheila Jackson Lee, (D-Texas).
Two Pronged DRIVE-Safe Act
The DRIVE-Safe Act has two prongs: It removes age restrictions on interstate transportation by licensed commercial drivers, and strengthens safety training standards across the industry, analysts said.
Young adults become eligible to seek commercial driver’s licenses at age 18 in most states. However, federal law currently prohibits these commercially licensed adults from driving across state lines before age 21. This prohibition bars the trucking industry from fully utilizing its complete workforce at a time when the country is facing a massive driver shortage and growing demand for freight transportation, trucking industry officials said.
It is estimated that trucking companies will need about 900,000 additional drivers over the next decade, according to trucking associations. The growing shortage is affecting the transportation and cost of goods for all consumers, as plants lack timely transportation for manufactured products, according to industry officials.
“Hoosiers know Indiana as the crossroads of America thanks to our strong infrastructure network and the numerous logistics providers that call Indiana home. We understand more than anyone the need to develop a responsible pathway to safely train more drivers,” said Sen. Young. “This apprenticeship program will address the driver shortage, create new career opportunities for young Hoosiers and substantially raise training standards to ensure safety on the roads.”
Food-Service Distribution Industry Strained
The driver shortage is particularly straining on the food-service distribution industry, which delivers hundreds of thousands of perishable products each day, analysts said. The federal age restriction on interstate transportation impacts places like the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland metro area, where a licensed food-service distribution driver is prohibited from making a five-mile delivery from Arlington, Va., to D.C. yet may drive 200 miles to Virginia Beach.
“Providing this workforce development opportunity for young drivers will lead to more comprehensive training, expanded career options and access to higher paying jobs,” Sen. Tester said. “This bipartisan bill will also provide a big boost to Montana communities that rely almost exclusively on trucks to move goods in and out of the state.”
Formally named the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, DRIVE-Safe enhances safety and training standards for newly qualified and current drivers. Under the legislation, once drivers qualify for a commercial driver’s license, they begin a two-step additional training program with performance benchmarks. Drivers must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time in the cab with an experienced driver.
Every driver will train on trucks equipped with new safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture and a speed governor of 65 mph or below.
Backed by a Coalition
The DRIVE-Safe Act is backed by a coalition of more than 50 industry trade groups, including International Foodservice Distributors Association, American Trucking Associations, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers, and American Beverage Association.