US senator seeks to lower age eligibility for interstate truck drivers

By: Brad Gardner


Proposal will allow 18-year-olds to drive trucks interstate.

US senator seeks to lower age eligibility for interstate truck drivers
Truck drivers in the US currently need to be at least 21 years of age to haul freight interstate.

 

Restrictions in the US that prevent truck drivers younger than 21 from hauling freight across state borders could soon be abolished.

Federal US senator Deb Fischer has put forward a proposal that, if introduced, will allow someone as young as 18 to obtain a commercial vehicle licence and drive heavy trucks interstate.

Called the Commercial Driver Act, the document wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to introduce a trial allowing neighbouring states to enter into agreements on drivers aged 18 to 20 travelling across borders.

Fischer has the support of the country’s premier trucking lobby, the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

"In each of the continental United States, a person can get a commercial driver's license and drive a truck at the age of 18, but federal law prevents them from driving across state lines until they reach the age of 21," ATA president and CEO Bill Graves says.

"It is illogical that a 20-year-old can drive the 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego, but not the eight miles from Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas – or simply cross the street in Texarkana. Even more illogical is that a 20-year-old may not drive a truck in any state if the cargo in it originated outside the state or will eventually leave the state by some other means."

The ATA believes the Bill, if introduced, will create more job opportunities for school leavers and address a driver shortage that is estimated to be between 35,000 to 40,000 people.

"As our population grows and our freight demands increase, we are going to need more drivers. The Commercial Driver Act helps solve two problems by expanding the pool of eligible drivers and creating employment opportunities for younger Americans," Graves says.

The ATA says trucking companies will need to recruit almost 100,000 new drivers a year over the next decade due to the growth in the freight task and to replace those who retire or leave the industry.

The Bill says participating jurisdictions should provide minimum standards for drivers under 21 years relating to age restrictions, travelling distance, reporting requirements and fatigue management.

The Bill will not affect drivers over the age of 21 who already cart interstate.

"Nothing in this Act may be construed to limit, or otherwise change, the authority to operate in Interstate Commerce for drivers over the the age of 21, including by setting the minimum age requirement to receive a Class A commercial driver’s licence at 18 years of the age," the Bill states.

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