Thursday, May 16, 2019

Alabama Legislature approves bill that lowers age restrictions for truck drivers

Yesterday, by a vote of 24-0, the Alabama Senate approved a bill allowing 18 year old drivers to legally operate a combination commercial vehicle of 26,000 lbs. or more within Alabama state lines only.

Alabama had been one of only two states that restricts Intrastate Commerce to drivers 21 years or older carrying a Class A commercial driver’s license.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dexter Grimsley, R-Abbeville, is expected to create thousands of new jobs and will allow Alabama businesses that rely on trucks to move their goods or equipment to better compete with surrounding states that do not have the same age restrictions. Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, carried the companion bill in the Senate. The House previously had passed the bill by a vote of 96-1.

All new drivers must meet safety training and testing guidelines set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and drivers under the age of 21 may not operate a commercial motor vehicle transporting hazardous material.

The Alabama Trucking Association, along with the Business Council of Alabama; Alabama Beverage Association, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Retail Association, Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives, Alabama’s chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, and Manufacture Alabama praised the members of the Alabama Legislature for the passage of legislation and for its ability to create jobs and relieve an acute shortage of professional truck drivers, which has long hampered growth and competitiveness for Alabama’s manufacturing and transportation industry.

“This legislation is a win-win for motor carriers, shippers and consumers,” said Alabama Trucking Association President Frank Filgo. “The ongoing truck driver shortage, now estimated to be more than 60,000 nationally, is a burden to the economy. With the passage of this bill, additional drivers will help advance long-term, sustainable profitability for Alabama motor carriers and suppliers. This Association is grateful to the Alabama Legislature for passing this important measure and to the coalition of state business organizations led by the Business Council of Alabama and others for showing such widespread support for the bill.”

Business Council of Alabama President Katie Britt called the legislation a workforce development bill that will provide more employment opportunities for young Alabamians.

“This commonsense legislation will open the door of opportunity for young adults who are looking to find a good paying job, and at the same time, it addresses a dire need for Alabama businesses that rely on trucks to move their products,” Britt said. “I applaud Rep. Grimsley and Sen. Chesteen for their leadership in this effort.”

Other members of Alabama’s business community also showed support for the bill’s passage.

“Alabama’s beverage industry relies heavily upon able CDL drivers to deliver our products to customers across the state,” said Alabama Beverage Association Executive Director Virginia Banister. “The shortage of these drivers continues to be a challenge to our business, and we are hopeful that this new law will create a pathway to qualify more drivers and broaden the pool of eligible hires for some very good paying jobs in the state of Alabama.”

“Our country is facing a severe shortage of truckers,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “This impacts the ability of farmers and forest landowners to get equipment and supplies in a timely manner as well as market their products. This legislation is a step in the right direction and will benefit all families, businesses and industries.”

“This legislation will give highly trained utility workers who don’t meet an arbitrary age requirement to be able to perform vital services on our electric grid,” said Sean Strickler, vice president of public affairs for Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. “Alabama’s electric cooperatives strive to keep the power on all the time but unfortunately in rare instances it goes out and this legislation will get it restored even faster than we do now.”

“One of the greatest challenges facing Alabama’s small businesses today is finding qualified workers,” said Rosemary Elebash, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “This legislation is going to help small businesses fill critical jobs and create new opportunities for young adults just entering the workforce. It’s a win-win.”

“The shortage of truck drivers has become increasingly challenging for manufacturers,” said Manufacture Alabama President George Clark. “It costs manufacturers a lot of money every time a shipment of raw materials is not delivered and every time a product does not leave the plant on time. This is a commonsense measure that is good for industry in Alabama.”