Three Republican Senators introduced a companion bill to the DRIVE-Safe Act that was proposed in the House of Representatives earlier this year that would lower the age requirement for new interstate truck drivers to 18 under certain conditions.
The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act would create a training program that would allow commercial driver’s license holders under under the age of 21 to legally participate in interstate professional driving. The Senate bill was introduced by Sens. Todd Young (R-IN.), Jerry Moran (R-KS.), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
The apprenticeship training program would ensure that younger truck drivers are capable of safely operating a commercial vehicle beyond the current standards by instituting more rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks, say the proponents of the bill. Drivers in the apprenticeship program would be required to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time accompanied by an experienced truck driver.
Another safety stipulation in the Senate bill requires the trucks used for training to be equipped with safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, a video event recording system, and a speed governor set at 65 mph or below.
“By expanding the opportunity for all commercial license holders to engage in interstate commerce, we can meaningfully address the driver shortage while improving transportation safety and give younger Americans the ability to be competitive in a strong economy so they can fully benefit from a skilled career,” said Sen. Inhofe.
There has already been some momentum to allow younger drivers this year, with the aforementioned House bill introduced by U.S. Representatives Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) in March. The Department of Transportation also announced a pilot program that would allow military veterans with the equivalent of a CDL to bypass the current age limit.
The House Bill was has public support from several trade associations, including American Trucking Associations. However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association co-signed a letter with a few safety groups opposing it, stating that it would be detrimental to road safety and was an attempt to avoid fixing core problems, such as pay, that have created a shortage of drivers in the industry.