Teenage truckers whose licenses restrict them to operating within a single state could drive cross-country after hundreds of hours of training under bills introduced Tuesday in both houses of Congress.
The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act could help reduce an estimated shortage of 50,000 drivers needed in long-haul trucking, sponsors said.
The DRIVE-Safe Act would eliminate the federal age restriction on interstate transportation that prohibits a five-mile drive from Arlington, Va., to Washington, D.C., but allows a 200-mile trip from Arlington to Virginia Beach, Va.
Under the legislation, once a driver qualifies for a commercial driver’s license, he or she would be required to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time as an apprentice in the cab with an experienced driver.
Each driver would train on trucks speed-limited to 65 mph and equipped with automatic emergency braking and video to capture any mishaps or crashes.
“The current driver shortage puts our dynamic economy at risk and closes off high-paying trucking careers to young Americans,” said Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind., one of the House bill’s co-sponsors.
In addition to Hollingsworth, the House bill was sponsored by representatives Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Al Green, D-Texas; and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. The Senate bill was sponsored by Todd Young, R-Ind.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Angus King, I-Maine; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
More than 50 industry trade groups support the legislation, including the International Foodservice Distributors Association, the American Trucking Associations, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Beverage Association.
“Given the broad coalition of interests backing this measure, there is growing understanding across the country that the impact of this issue reaches far beyond just trucking and commercial vehicles,” said Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations, which has pushed for the legislation.
Similar legislation was introduced by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., in the last congressional session but did not advance to a vote.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety oppose expanding driving authority nationwide because young drivers lack experience.
“We already know that younger drivers in passenger vehicles are at higher risk, so we don’t think it makes sense to put them behind the wheels of 80,000-pound trucks,” Eric Teoh, IIHS senior statistician, told Trucks.com.
Military veterans in their late teens are part of a pilot program authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to allow them to drive big rigs across state lines.