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Congress to reintroduce bill to lower interstate driver age

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A bipartisan effort in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that emerged that would allow drivers as young as 18 years old to drive heavy duty trucks in interstate commerce.

According to a report by Heavy Duty Trucking magazine the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act is aimed at changing federal law to allow commercial driver’s license holders under the age of 21 to move goods from state to state. While all 48 states in the continental U.S. currently allow 18-year-olds to obtain a CDL, until federal law is changed, they cannot drive a truck across state lines until they are 21.

While lowering the minimum age for interstate drivers, the bill also establishes an apprenticeship program for CDL holders under 21. Young drivers would apprentice under the guidance of a veteran driver while also studying best driving practices, safety standards. During the training period apprentice drivers are subjected to performance benchmarks.

They must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab. Trucks used for training must be equipped with active braking collision mitigation systems, a video event-capture system, and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or below, according to published reports.

The American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said his group fully supports the bill, calling it “critically important to the American economy.”

“The strong bipartisan, bicameral support behind this legislation demonstrates how real a threat the driver shortage presents to our nation’s economic security over the long-term – and how serious our lawmakers are about addressing it with common-sense solutions,” Spear said. “Given the broad coalition of interests backing this measure, there is growing understanding across the country that the impact of this issue reaches far beyond just trucking and commercial vehicles. It is a strain on the entire supply chain, from the manufacturers and producers on down to retail and the end consumer, who will see higher prices at the store.”

The bill is opposed by safety advocacy groups and independent driver organizations, including the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association, whose President Todd Spencer called the measure “irresponsible to put young drivers behind the wheel of a truck in order to avoid addressing the real problems of high turnover. The focus should instead be on fixing the staggering turnover rate with better pay and working conditions.”