Trucks and cars on Highway bumper to bumper

Bipartisan Support Grows For Younger Truck Drivers in US

A group of bipartisan legislators reintroduced the DRIVE-Safe Act to address the growing shortage of professional truck drivers in the U.S. by allowing certified commercial truck driver’s who are under 21 to cross state lines after completing safety training and apprenticeship opportunities.

Under the proposed Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act, after a driver meets the requirements currently in place to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), they can then begin a two-step program of additional training, which includes “rigorous performance benchmarks.’’

The program requires these drivers to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced truck drivers in the cab with them. All trucks used for training in the program must be equipped with advanced safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or less. Only once all these benchmarks are successfully met will the candidate be permitted to cross state lines.

The legislation addresses the federal regulations that prohibit individuals with a CDL who are under 21-years-old from crossing state lines, even though 49 states permit those same individuals to obtain a CDL and operate large commercial vehicles.

These restrictions bar a vital population of job seekers from interstate trucking, exacerbating the driver shortage as qualified candidates are lost to other industries, the American Trucking Association (ATA) wrote in statement in support of the act.

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“The DRIVE Safe Act is not a path to allow every young person to drive across state lines, but it envisions creating a safety-centered process for identifying, training and empowering the safest, most responsible 18 to 20-year-olds to more fully participate in our industry,” said Chris Spear, ATA’s president and chief executive officer Chris Spear.

ATA President and CEO Chris Spear, Support Grows For Younger Truck Drivers in Industry

ATA President and CEO Chris Spear

This is the third go-round of the bill, which was originaly introduced in 2018, and then again in early 2019. It was never brought to a vote.

In both 2018 and 2019, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposed the bill, saying bringing in younger drivers would not be less safe, but also negatively affect driver wages and working conditions.

A coalition of nearly 90 companies and trade associations throughout the supply chain, including International Food-service Distributors Association and others in manufacturing, agriculture, retail and restaurants, have long supported enactment of the DRIVE-Safe Act, ATA officials said.

The truck driver shortage is expected to grow worse in the coming years as more drivers move into retirement and the demand for freight transportation increases. Over the next decade, it’s projected that the trucking industry will need to hire roughly 1.1 million new drivers, or an average of nearly 110,000 per year, to keep up with demand, ATA officials said.

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