DRIVE Safe Act to Help Recruit Next Generation of CDL Truckers

The new DRIVE Safe Act legislation was introduced to both the U.S. House and Senate.  The bipartisan legislation will provide a legal framework to remove barriers of entry.  It will allow younger Americans to enter the trucking industry.

What is encouraging is how many Senators and House Representatives demonstrated bipartisan support for the DRIVE Safe Act.  This means that investment in the trucking industry and legislative changes that protect trucking and supply chains is very much a priority right now, in the White House.

The DRIVE Safe Act was introduced by the following senators and representatives:

  • Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana)
  • Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana)
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia)
  • Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas)
  • Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)
  • Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Arizona)
  • Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
  • Sen. Jim Inhof (R-Oklahoma)
  • Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana)
  • Rep.  Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee)
  • Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
  • Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan)
  • Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine)
  • Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio)
  • Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Michigan)
  • Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas)
  • Rep. Darin LaHOod (R-Illinois)

Trucking Associations have raised the alarm that there are currently not enough U.S. CDLs.  In many high-demand states which international ports for imports and exports, truck driver scarcity is creating problems.  Carriers are competing with corporate fleets for retail distribution chains like Amazon and Walmart.  While owner-operators experience regulatory challenges that are increasing operational expenses.

What is the DRIVE Safe Act and What New Opportunities Will It Provide?

In an interview, the American Trucking Association (ATA) President and CEO (Chris Spear) outlined the advantages. And how the DRIVE Safe Act will create new employment opportunities for young men and women who want to join the trucking industry.

“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 participate in our industry more fully. It will create enormous opportunities for countless Americans seeking a high-paying profession without the debt burden that comes with a four-year degree”.

The federal legislation that currently exists, prevents CDL licensed truck drivers under the age of 21 years from crossing state lines.  This has restricted job opportunities for young drivers, who complete the same training requirements, background checks and randomized drug testing. The best and highest paying trucking opportunities are interstate.  And drivers under the age of 21 cannot start to build interstate and long-haul driving skills before reaching the age of twenty-one.

The DRIVE Safe Act is also supported by more than 90 trucking associations and carriers. Trucks move more than 70% of all inbound and outbound cargo in the United States. Protecting the future of trucking means focused recruitment now.

How Serious is the Shortage of CDL Truckers in the United States?

The DRIVE Safe Act will provide accommodations that will, for the first time, allow drivers under the age of 21 years to participate in interstate trucking. The current average age of an American truck driver is 55 years.  This highlights the importance of recruiting new, and younger drivers into the industry.

Within the next ten years, there is a shocking forecast about the anticipated shortage of truck drivers.  One analysis estimated that the trucking industry will need to hire about 1.1 million new drivers within the next decade. Or an average of 110,000 drivers per year, to keep up with growing demand for trucking logistics services.

The current restrictions to drivers under the age of twenty-one, creates three problems. First, it discourages young Americans from looking at the career opportunities of trucking, immediately following high school.  There is a narrow opportunity to recruit them into the industry.  By the age of twenty-one, many young Americans have found another profession.  They may not “wait” to explore trucking as a career option.

The other aspect is insurability. Particularly for male drivers, who still face an insurance bias overall, between the ages of 18 to 25 years.  The legislation may help reduce premiums for new drivers, by validating the extra training and skill benchmarks that they will have to reach.

The third and most pressing problem, is the future of trucking. As the current age of an American truck driver is 55 years and up, the need is immediate and great, to get more young Americans interested in trucking.  As a career, employed hourly as part of a fleet.  Or as an entrepreneurial business opportunity, as an independent owner-operator.

How Will New Drivers Safely Learn Long-Haul Interstate Skills With the DRIVE Safe Act?

The legislation for the DRIVE Safe Act may be changed and amended several times before it becomes law.  It is anticipated to rapidly pass through both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate because it has almost equal bipartisan support from sixteen (16) states.

In the current iteration of the legislation, the following requirements would need to be met by a CDL licensed driver under the age of twenty-one (21) years.

  • A two-step program of additional training will be required with established (and rigorous) skills benchmarks.
  • Drivers under the age of 21-years will be required to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time.  They must be accompanied by an experienced driver (over the age of 21 years) in the cab with them.
  • All trucks used for training of CDL interstate drivers under 21 years will have advanced technology and collision mitigation software and devices to enhance road safety.  This includes active braking collision mitigation systems.
  • A speed limiter will be applied for young drivers under 21 years. The maximum speed of driving a heavy truck (with or without cargo) will be 65 miles per hour.
  • Video capture or dashcam equipment will be required.

After all the benchmarks are met a CDL driver under the age of twenty-one will be permitted to drive long-haul trips across state borders.  They will not be legally permitted to cross state lines driving a truck, until the met requirements are verified.  The met standards would be added to their CDL license.  And this may also help reduce insurance rates for CDLs under the age of 21 years.

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