With the new highway funding bill passed in congress, it now goes on to the Senate for a vote, but safety groups and many in the trucking industry are concerned about one of the amendments that was added on to the bill – they don’t want truck drivers under the age of 21.
By now most people know that drivers as young as 18 are actually allowed to drive large commercial vehicles as long as neither they, nor the freight their hauling, will cross state lines. Of course, since very little is sourced, manufactured, distributed, and sold all in one state, that effectively means that Class A CDL drivers under the age of 21 don’t really get to work.
But all that could be about to change. The proposed highway budgets from the Senate and the House both contain language that would either allow (Senate) or require (House) the implementation of an under-21 interstate driving pilot program to see if commercial drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 are just as bad at driving as non-commercial drivers are at that age.
Accompanying the chorus of drivers who are against these “baby truckers” are the safety advocacy groups who says that this is a matter of the bottom line of businesses being more important to lawmakers than the safety of the young drivers and others on the road.
“Tomorrow, the backroom, closed-doors negotiations between the House and Senate begin,” said Jackie Gillian, the president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “I urge our nation’s leaders to stand up for safety. The public will pay with their lives and their wallets if corporate lobbyists win.”
Lawmakers seem to be split on the issue however. Senator Richard Blumenthal for example called the amendment a step backwards in terms of safety, but others claim that having younger drivers would be a boon by helping to alleviate the driver shortage.
Proponents of younger drivers claim that the government should not be creating unreasonable obstacles to job creation, and that driving a truck would be a great job for people just out of high school or community college.
“They’re driving trucks in Iraq at that age,” said Rep. Brad Ashford. “I think they can do the same here.”