Three U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds to drive a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.
Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act, S3352, on Thursday, Aug. 16. All three senators cited the “driver shortage” as the motive behind the bill. In March, a similar bill was introduced in the House.
“Indiana is the ‘crossroads of America’ and the truck driver shortage has a significant impact on our state,” Sen. Young said in a news release. “As I’ve traveled throughout Indiana, I have heard from Hoosiers that a pathway is needed to qualify more drivers to move goods safely and efficiently. The DRIVE-Safe Act will help address the driver shortage, enhance safety, and create new career opportunities for young Hoosiers.”
However, the Owner-Operator Drivers Association contends that there is no driver shortage. In July, OOIDA President Todd Spencer went on the Fox Business show Varney & Co. and told viewers that the problem is big fleets’ inability to retain drivers.
“We’ve been hearing about a truck driver shortage for about 30 years now,” Spencer said. “The same people say it over and over. Of course, what they’re really talking about is that they’re not able to retain people because pay and benefits aren’t adequate. They’re plenty adequate to attract them, but they’re not adequate enough to keep them. So they continually call it a shortage.”
The driver turnover rate for large fleets was at 94 percent in the first quarter of 2018.
If there’s not a driver shortage, the logic behind the bill is more difficult to explain as fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses is on the rise in recent years.
Most states allow 18-to-20-year-old drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle intrastate. Federal regulations prohibit drivers under the age of 21 to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.
The DRIVE-Safe Act would require drivers under the age of 21 to complete a probationary period of 120 hours followed by 280 hours of on-duty time. Trucks used in the apprenticeship program would require a collision mitigation system, forward-facing video, and a speed limiter that is set at no faster than 65 mph. The apprentice driver would also have to be accompanied in the cab by an experienced driver who is at least 21 years old, has held a CDL for at least two years and hasn’t had a preventable accident or moving violation in the past year.
“Not only would the DRIVE-Safe Act create new career opportunities for young Kansans, but it would also help move the supply-chain nationwide in a more expedition manner – benefitting many sectors of the Kansas economy,” Moran said in a news release. “The legislation includes important provisions that would help curb the trucker shortage, train safe drivers, and deliver goods and supplies to the Kansans that need them.”
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