US Senate Bill to Allow Interstate Truckers Under 21 Touted at Hearing

- A bill that would pave the way for commercial drivers younger than 21 to drive trucks across state lines received a resounding endorsement from an organization that represents freight industry interests nationwide during a Feb. 4 Senate hearing.

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear applauded legislation sponsored by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) that would lower the age requirement of 21 to 18 for interstate commercial driving.

“It’s really not about age. It’s about training,” Spear said during his appearance at the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing, noting that the measure could help the industry tackle its shortage of truck drivers.

The DRIVE-Safe Act, sponsored last year by Young and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), aims to address industrywide concerns about a shortage of truck drivers. The bill specifies that a driver in an apprenticeship would be required to complete 120 hours of on-duty time. Of that time, no fewer than 80 hours must consist of driving time in a commercial vehicle. Additionally, for successful completion of the 120-hour probationary period, an employer must determine the apprentice competent in interstate, city traffic, rural two-lane, and evening driving; safety awareness; speed and space management; lane control; mirror scanning; right and left turns; and logging and complying with hours-of-service regulations.

“We have this substantial driver shortage in this country,” Young said during the hearing. “And, progressively this threatens the long-term economic stability of our country. We want to maintain this longest period of economic expansion in American history.”

The legislation, however, was met with pushback at the hearing. Dawn King with the Truck Safety Coalition questioned the measure’s central argument pertaining to safety.

As she put it, “There is ample research showing that teen drivers have significantly higher crash rates and are much less safe than older drivers. There is absolutely no evidence that introducing teen drivers will in any way improve safety.”

Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, criticized the measure from a different angle, noting: “There is no driver shortage.”

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