DRIVE-Safe Act unnecessary and dangerous, coalition says

June 2, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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Lowering the interstate driving age for truck drivers would “needlessly endanger the public,” says a coalition of organizations including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

On Wednesday, June 2, a coalition including the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Teamsters, and OOIDA, wrote to the leaders of a Senate subcommittee on transportation in opposition of proposals that would allow commercial motor vehicle drivers as young as 18 years old to operate long haul. Currently, commercial motor vehicle drivers must be at least 21 to cross state lines.

The letter was in response to discussion of a driver shortage during a hearing on freight mobility held in May. The idea that there is a shortage of truck drivers is often used to promote such bills as the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would allow younger drivers to operate in interstate commerce.

No driver shortage

“During the hearing there was discussion of an alleged ‘driver shortage’ plaguing the trucking industry,” the coalition wrote. “In fact, the Department of Labor has determined that … ‘a deeper look (at the truck industry labor market) does not find evidence of a secular shortage.’ Yet, certain trucking interests continue to advance reckless proposals that would allow teenagers as young as 18 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce in response to a fictitious driver shortage despite consistent research demonstrating that younger drivers have higher crash rates.”

The coalition says the trucking industry is facing a retention crisis, not a driver shortage. The groups point to turnover rates of 90% for large motor carriers and more than 450,000 new commercial driver licenses being issued each year.

“Instead of advancing initiatives that will not address the retention issue but will degrade public safety, the industry should be focused on keeping drivers through improved safe working conditions,” the coalition wrote.

Young driver stats

In addition to contending there is no need to lower the age, the coalition said it would be dangerous for the young truck drivers and the public.

“Studies of young CMV drivers show that as the age of the driver decreases, large truck fatal crash involvement rates increase,” the coalition wrote.

The groups cited studies that indicate commercial motor vehicle drivers between the ages of 19-20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than all truck drivers.

“Additionally, a 2015 public opinion poll commissioned by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety showed that 73% of the public opposed allowing teen truck and bus drivers to operate a CMV in interstate commerce,” the coalition wrote.

The coalition:

  • Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
  • Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
  • Parents Against Tired Truckers
  • Truck Safety Coalition. LL
TBS

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.