A Nebraska senator introduced a bill that would create a pilot program allowing younger commercial driver's license holders to cross state lines.
Under the Commercial Driver Act, introduced last week by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., contiguous states could enter into interstate compacts for drivers under the age of 21 to operate across state lines. Under the bill, participating states would provide minimum licensure standards acceptable for interstate travel.
The American Trucking Associations praised the bill, saying it would create job opportunities and address the growing shortage of commercial truck drivers by studying lowering the age commercial drivers can operate across state lines.
“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,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “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, Tenn., to West Memphis, Ark. – 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.”
In addition, ATA says, the legislation will create more job openings for recent high school graduates; a group that suffers unemployment rates up to triple that of the national average.
“As our population grows and our freight demands increase, we are going to need more drivers,” Graves said. "The Commercial Driver Act helps solve two problems by expanding the pool of eligible drivers and creating employment opportunities for younger Americans."
ATA estimates that the current shortage of drivers is roughly 35,000 to 40,000, but because of retirements and individuals leaving the industry, trucking companies will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers a year over the next decade to keep pace with the country’s freight needs.
“Trucks move nearly 70% of our nation’s goods, and we need well-trained, professional drivers to do so,” Graves said. “We know younger drivers can operate safely hauling freight within their respective states, but the Commercial Driver Act takes a step toward showing they can safely cross state lines as well. This would be a tremendous benefit for trucking and the economy and we thank Sen. Fischer for her leadership on this important issue.”