The American trucking industry has been one of the most integral sectors for a stimulating economy. Unfortunately, as baby boomer truck drivers retire in droves, there has been a major trucker shortage as of late, jeopardizing every market involved with freight transport.
Lawmakers have been looking for ways to bring in more truckers and improve the trucking sector once again.
According to The Washington Post, representatives Duncan D. Hunter (R-California) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana) have proposed a bill that would allow drivers younger than 21 years old to operate 18-wheelers and drive cross state lines.
Currently, federal rules ban drivers who are younger than 21 years old from driving 18-wheelers, but this new bill would lower the legal age to 18 years old.
There are plenty of safety regulations already in place within the trucking and freight industry. For example, any truck exceeding a 10,000 pound weight and an 80” width must have its trailer marked with Department of Transportation (DoT) C2 reflective tape in alternating white and red stripes (the tape must be at 2” wide). This new bill would mandate extra supervision and a speed cap of 65 miles per hour for younger drivers.
“If you’re old enough to join the Marine Corps, you can get the training to do this,” said Hunter. “I think we should expect more out of our younger generation, not less.”
Trucking industry representatives have welcomed the proposal, stating that expending the talent pool could not only fill the trucking vacancies, but could keep employers cost down, while offering recent high school and college graduates a chance to earn upwards of $60,000 immediately after graduation.
Not everyone has praised the new bill, however. National safety organizations have argued that long-haul rides are extremely dangerous for younger drivers without much experience.
“Younger drivers have higher crash rates,” said Henry Jasny, vice president and general counsel for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “We have concerns about younger people who have less experience and less judgment going from state to state, from rural to urban areas.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old are approximately three times more likely to fatally crash than those who are above the age of 20.
Though inexperienced younger drivers certainly could lead to more roadway dangers, trucking industry officials are adamant that proper training would mitigate the risks involved.
“We need to get younger people involved in a safe structure,” added John Tracy, Dot Foods executive chairman. “That will help us increase the supply of drivers, and they’ll get more training and safer technology.”