The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, along with other groups, is opposing two bills before the House of Representatives that would allow for lowering the age requirement for obtaining an interstate commercial driver’s license.
OOIDA and the other stakeholder groups have sent a signed letter to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that states their position that lowering the age at which one can obtain an interstate CDL would “not only be detrimental to road safety, but also to those seeking to enter the trucking industry as professional drivers.”
The groups are opposed to these specific legislative proposals: H.R. 5358, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE Safe) Act, and H.R. 3889, the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor (WHEEL) Act. The signatories contend that if either or both measures pass, “teenagers would be allowed to drive large trucks.”
OOIDA noted that the letter points out that, “among other statistics and concerns, intrastate CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes, and CMV drivers who are 19-20 years of age are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.”
Younger Drivers Equals Riskier Drivers
The letter contends that the current federal age requirement of 21 for the interstate operation of a commercial motor vehicle reflects the greater risk younger driver shave of being involved in fatal crashes.
With that in mind, the signatories argue that, under the two legislative proposals, “teenagers entering an apprenticeship and/or participating in a pilot program may have only recently received a full driver’s license from their state to operate an automobile, let alone a CMV. Some may not have even gone through a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program, which allows novice drivers to gradually gain driving experience under more complex conditions.”
Todd Spencer, acting president of OOIDA, said in a statement that OOIDA thinks “it’s irresponsible to put young drivers behind the wheel of a truck in order to avoid addressing the real problems of high turnover. The focus should instead be on fixing the staggering turnover rate with better pay and working conditions.”
He added that the newly proposed bills echo a previous, failed attempt in 2001 to lower the interstate CDL age to 18.
“This has been tried before, and no one with any common sense thought it was a good idea,” said Spencer. “Nothing has changed since that time, and no disruptions have ever taken place due to any perceived shortage of drivers. These latest efforts are just more ways to keep driver churn going and keep wages as low as possible.”
The letter is co-signed with Spencer by the leaders of 13 safety-advocacy groups, including the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and the American Public Health Association.