DRIVE-Safe Act gains co-sponsors; OOIDA opposes bill

April 29, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The DRIVE-Safe Act received a small surge of support this past week as five more co-sponsors have signed on to the bill aimed at allowing under-21 drivers to operate in interstate commerce.

The bill, S659, from Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., now has 14 co-sponsors after Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; James Risch, R-Idaho; Mike Braun, R-Ind.; and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., all lent their support in recent days.

Currently, truck drivers have to be at least 21 years old to cross state lines. The DRIVE-Safe Act would pave the way for truck drivers as young as 18 years old to operate across the country.

Proponents of the bill say it is aimed at tackling a driver shortage in the trucking industry. For years, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has argued that there is not a driver shortage and the problem has more to do with large fleets’ inability to retain its drivers because of low pay or poor working conditions.

OOIDA’s take on the DRIVE-Safe Act

OOIDA points to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that said the evidence does not support the theory of a driver shortage and that increasing pay could alleviate any issues with recruitment and retention. The Association also said it doesn’t want large fleets to use teenage truck drivers as a new pool of candidates so that they can keep the wages low.

Earlier this week, OOIDA sent a letter to the leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee to outline its priorities for the next highway bill. Among the priorities was to keep any measures to lower the interstate driving age out of the legislation.

“Research has consistently shown that commercial motor vehicle drivers under 21 are more likely to be involved in crashes,” OOIDA wrote. “Rather than developing legislation to allow more teenagers behind the wheel of commercial trucks, Congress should be taking steps to reverse the incessantly high driver turnover rate, which remains above 90% along large truckload carriers.” LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.