In order to be an interstate commercial truck driver, you need to be at least 21 years old. But large carrier organizations have been lobbying Congress to lower the age requirement to 18 for years. Now, there have been two bills introduced which would effectively do just that.
Allowing younger drivers behind the wheel of large trucks has been seen as a safety concern. But sponsors of the bill are trying to sell it as a training program to make drivers safer. To help with that branding problem, they have named it the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Congress introduced bills in both the House and Senate last year with the same name. This year, there are new twin companion bills in the House and Senate that appear almost exactly the same as the bills from last year.
Under the DRIVE-Safe Act, under-21 drivers would be referred to as “apprentices” and face certain increased training and regulatory requirements. Apprentices must:
- Earn their CDL
- Complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time. Of that, at least 240 hours must be spent driving with an experienced driver in the cab with them.
- Operate a CMV that has a speed limiter set to no higher than 65 miles per hour
- Operate a CMV with active braking collision mitigation systems
- Operate a CMV with forward-facing video cameras
After fulfilling those requirements, apprentices will be given the same rights and privileges as a driver over the age of 21.
Critics of the bills point to research which shows that younger drivers are significantly more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers over the age of 21. There are also concerns that only large carriers will have the systems in place to accommodate the apprentice program. This could lead to megacarriers hiring younger, less expensive, and less safe drivers. This could in turn lower rates and pay across the industry.
But the forty national trade associations and large companies that have signed on in support call the bills a “common-sense solution” which would help address the ‘driver shortage.’ ATA President and CEO Chris Spear called the bills “critically important to the American economy.”
While the push to lower the interstate driving age wasn’t successful last year, it’s already seeing more progress this year. Colorado has even passed legislation allowing for under-21 truckers to drive interstate once it’s allowed by federal law.