“Today, 18-year-olds can drive more than 200 miles from New Albany to Gary and back, but they aren’t allowed to drive two miles from New Albany to Louisville,” said Senator Todd Young, who also serves as a member of the trucking policy-overseeing Commerce Committee. “The DRIVE-Safe Act will eliminate this ridiculous regulation and, in doing so, [will] address the driver shortage while providing new career opportunities for young Hoosiers.”
There have, until recently, been widespread restrictions for truck drivers under than age of 21 to operate trucks within interstate commerce, and many groups throughout the trucking industry have been working to relax those regulations in an effort to introduce more drivers into the workforce and help combat the national truck driver shortage. This shortage has been high on the list of trucking industry concerns for quite some time.
Recently, senators released legislation that would allow truckers younger than 21 to operate across state lines. The bill has been named the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act, and has been backed strongly by Senator Young.
“The DRIVE Safe Act, which has strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, will expand job opportunities in trucking while also enhancing safety training and technology standards,” said American Trucking Associations recently in a tweet.
Young first introduced a version of this bill at a prior congressional session, but the legislation did not make it to the desk of the president. He has now reintroduced this bill to Congress with the support of Senators Kyrsten Sinema, Tom Cotton, Jerry Moran, Angus King, Jim Inhofe, and Joe Manchin–all co-sponsors of the bill.
The bill will focus on boosting employment opportunities and safety training for these young truckers, and would work to implement specific apprenticeship programs that would help all commercial driver license holders who are younger than 21 become able to haul shipments between different states via commercial motor vehicles.
“Now, more than ever, young Montanans need more opportunities to get comprehensive job training, access higher-paying work, and grow their careers early on,” said bill co-sponsor, Senator Jon Tester. “This bipartisan bill will do just that, allowing younger truckers to get top-of-the-line apprenticeships that kick their careers into gear, all while providing a big boost to the thousands of communities across the Big Sky who rely almost exclusively on trucks to move goods in and out of the state.”
Besides the partial solution that this bill would bring to the truck driver shortage, one major benefit, according to the bill’s supporters, is the economic boost it could bring to the country’s supply chain.
The current driver shortage has been a major factor in the nation’s economic struggles, Young explained.
“A strong domestic supply chain is essential for a competitive national economy, and the efficiency of the domestic supply chain is contingent upon the efficiency of our transportation networks,” Young said. “I’m concerned about the trucking industry’s growing driver shortage and its impact on the resilience of our domestic supply chain.”
American Trucking Associations has warned that the driver shortage is likely to continue at an incline over the next few years, with the rising demand in e-commerce (which skyrocketed during the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders) and growing numbers of trucking retirees being the largest causes.
According to ATA, the trucking industry will need to bring onboard an additional 1.1 million new truck drivers–or around 110,000 annually–over the next ten years if it wants to meet the demands of the country.
“This bill has strong, bipartisan backing because it’s both common sense and pro-safety,” said President of ATA, Chris Spear. “It raises the bar for training standards and safety technology far above what is asked of the thousands of under-21 drivers who are already legally driving commercial vehicles in 49 states today. The DRIVE-Safe Act is not a path to allow every young person to drive across state lines, but it envisions creating a safety-centered process for identifying, training, and empowering the safest, most responsible 18- to 20-year-olds to more fully participate in our industry.”