No less than 42 trade associations, including the American Trucking Associations and others lobbying for grocers, restaurants, and food distributors, are urging House transportation leaders to back a bill introduced in Congress back in March that would create a training pathway for truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to be able to operate in interstate commerce.
Introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) on March 21, the legislation is titled the "Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act (DRIVE-SAFE) Act."
A June 18 letter sent by the nearly four dozen lobbying groups to Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman, and Peter DeFazio (D-OR, ranking Member, of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure urges them to support the DRIVE-Safe Act (H.R.5358) and “move it through the committee quickly.” The bill was referred for consideration to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on March 22. but no further action on it has yet been taken.
The letter’s authors describe the DRIVE-Safe Act’s mechanism for preparing younger drivers as a “rigorous skill development and safety-training program for drivers under the age of 21 to engage in interstate commerce.”
The letter points out that while 48 states currently allow drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license at 18, those drivers are prohibited from driving in interstate commerce until they are 21. The authors point out that under current federal law, a 20 year old truck driver could not drive 14 miles from Springfield, Virginia, to Washington D.C., but that same driver could haul a load from Arlington to Norfolk, Virginia, a more than six-hour round trip.
More specifically, the bill calls for creating a two-step training program. According to the lobbying groups, candidates would be accompanied in the cab by experienced drivers for a total of 400 hours of on-duty time with at least 240 hours of driving time. In addition, trucks would be required to be outfitted with the latest safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less, and automatic or automatic manual transmissions.
“The truck driver shortage is slowing the movement of commerce in this country, raising consumer prices and wait times for goods,” said Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association. “The DRIVE-Safe Act is a common-sense proposal that will open enormous opportunities for an emerging workforce and strengthen safety training programs.”
Shortly after the bill was introduced, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear called it “a common-sense proposal that will open enormous opportunities for the 18-21 year-old population, giving them access to a high-paying profession free of the debt burden that comes with a four-year degree. Moreover, this bill would strengthen training programs beyond current requirements to ensure safety and that drivers are best prepared.”