U.S. legislation would allow truck drivers under 21 to cross state lines

by Today's Trucking

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is applauding proposed legislation that would let truck drivers under the age of 21 cross state lines.

Forty-nine states allow drivers to obtain a CDL under that age, but without the Drive Safe Act – now introduced by the U.S. House and Senate – the younger drivers are barred from interstate commerce.

(Photo: istock)

Those restrictions exacerbate an ongoing driver shortage, the nation’s largest trucking association says. But the new rules will give them a chance to participate in broader apprenticeship programs.

“This bill has strong, bipartisan backing because it’s both common sense and pro-safety,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of the ATA. “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 more fully participate in our industry.”

The legislation allows for the affected drivers to begin a two-step program of additional training that includes performance benchmarks. They’ll need to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab.

Trucks used for such training will need to incorporate active braking collision mitigation systems, video even capture, and speed limiters set at less than 105 km/h.

The legislation has been supported by about 90 companies and trade associations.

“The Drive Safe Act comes at a time when the national economy is reeling from pandemic-related job losses,” said Mark S. Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association.

“At the same time, the pandemic highlighted how essential professional drivers are to our everyday life, increasing the demand for this specific kind of job. The Drive-Safe Act will hasten our economic recovery by providing an opportunity for new drivers to enter the workforce while reinforcing a culture of safety far and above current standards.”

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  • There is no shortage of truck drivers willing to work by the hour at a fair rate of pay. Certain companies who self insure are looking to bring labour costs down. In many parts of the U S and Canada truck drivers with 5 or more years experience are leaving the industry because of poor treatment that has brought on health issues. I and many other truck drivers can be seen when we are sick in homeless shelters. The solution is a training and insurance plan for new truck drivers and owners of trucks and or fleets of 50 units or less. Also need to look at changes to pay methods and treatment of truck drivers.

  • Chris Spears knows full well that the “training” requirements are only as good as the cut-rate carriers willingness to adhere to same. FMCSA will leave it totally up to the likes of Swift et al. to incorporate those standards. They (ATA) have run out of stupid adults to exploit so now they go for the teenagers. Whenever someone says “commonsense legislation” they are being both disingenuous and devoid of substance. Even the “Entry Level Driver Training Rule” was recently postponed at the behest of Spears and his ilk.

    And those rotten SOBs think they are going to shove their speed limiters down my throat while simultaneously advocating for cheap child labor? You’re “#1” Chris Spears!

  • This can be a very easy way to start a career for many people entering adulthood as myself. I just hope they do it, because by 2024, when I hit 21, it might not be around no more.