Two state representatives introduced a bill last week that could allow teenagers with a commercial driver license to operate their big rigs across state lines.
The bill is sponsored by California State Representative Duncan Hunter and Indiana State Representative Trey Hollingsworth and would replace the current federal law that bans commercial drivers under 21 years of age from transporting good outside of the state in which they are licensed. This would allow commercial drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate as over-the-road truckers, just as their older coworkers are allowed to do.
“If you’re old enough to join the Marine Corps, you can get the training to do this [drive a semi truck],” said Hunter to The Washington Post.
“I think we should expect more out of our younger generation, not less,” he continued.
The proposed bill would mandate extra supervision, including video cameras, automatic brakes, and a speed cap of 65 mph for drivers between the ages of 18 and 21. The new bill would also require young drivers to log 240 hours driving with an experienced truck driver in the passenger seat, as well as 400 hours of on-duty driving, before they would earn their license for driving across state lines.
Industry leaders claim that the inclusion of young drivers in over-the-road trucking could not only help solve the growing truck driver shortage as older drivers begin to retire but could also “expand the talent pool” and help employers keep costs down.
Despite the limited data available on the crash and safety statistics of truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21, Henry Jasny, vice president and general counsel for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, among other industry leaders, believes that allowing young drivers to cross state lines could lead to a potentially dangerous situation.
“Younger drivers have higher crash rates,” Jasny said.
“We have concerns about younger people who have less experience and less judgment going from state to state, from rural to urban areas.”
Even still, many believe that lowering the legal over-the-road driving age is the most effective and logical way to solve the truck driver shortage.
“Trucking is unable to compete against other professions to attract younger talent because of arbitrary age restrictions that were put in place in 1937,” said Donald Lefeve, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association.
Every state in the Lower 48 allows someone who holds an intrastate [license] to drive within their borders. We should let them be able to cross state lines,” he said.
“We need to get younger people involved in a safe structure,” said executive chairman of Dot Foods, John Tracy, who employs around 1,300 truckers across the country.
“That [involving young people] will help us increase the supply of drivers, and they’ll get more training and safer technology,” he continued.
As of March 27th the bill was still in the first steps of the legislative process, and was ready to be considered by a committee.