Drive Safe Act 2021: How Does This Impact The Trucking Industry?
It’s no secret that the US is facing an unprecedented truck driver shortage that has increased the cost of consumer goods and is hurting the economy. According to the American Trucking Associations, an estimated 60,800 driving jobs went unfilled in 2019. The ATA also believes that without action, this problem will only get worse. As shipping continues to be delayed, current drivers are becoming more and more strained, and with the average age for truck drivers being 46 years old, companies will be facing a retiring workforce. Without action from Congress, many trucking companies will be left scrambling to fill vacancies. However, the DRIVE-Safe Act might be the solution.
Currently, 49 states (must be 21 in New York) allow individuals under 21 years of age to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate commercial vehicles in intrastate commerce. However, federal law prohibits these individuals from driving across state lines until they turn 21. In hopes to remedy the growing driver shortage, the DRIVE-Safe Act, a new bill introduced into Congress could make these age requirements more lenient.
What is the DRIVE-Safe Act?
Under current federal law, in most US states, individuals can obtain a CDL at the age of 18. However, commercial drivers under the age of 21 may not transport goods from state to state. This regulation is what the DRIVE-Safe Act 2021 would aim to change.
The DRIVE-Safe Act would establish a two-part apprenticeship program that would grant under 21 truck drivers legal operation of a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce. In order to qualify, CDL holders under the age of 21 would be required to complete at least 400 hours of additional training – which is far more than what is required of any other CDL holder in the US. They will also be required to participate in the apprenticeship program in which they would be accompanied by an experienced driver supervising them in the cab for 240 hours of driving time. During the apprenticeship program, young drivers would only be allowed to drive trucks outfitted with the latest safety technology, which includes active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing dash cams, speed limiters set at 65 mph (or lower), and automatic or automatic-manual transmissions.
Why is the DRIVE-Safe Act desired?
The rationale behind this legislation is that the US is experiencing a driver shortage in the trucking industry, and this would allow younger drivers to fill those vacancies. Additionally, this will allow younger truck drivers to have a headstart in their careers and more time to develop and grow into their roles. For these reasons, the trucking industry continues to urge Congress to pass the DRIVE-Safe Act.