DRIVE Safe Integrity Act parked

May 24, 2023

Mark Schremmer


The DRIVE Safe Integrity Act has appeared to hit a roadblock.

The bill, which is supported by the American Trucking Associations and would allow 18-year-olds to haul interstate loads, was pulled from consideration at a House committee hearing after failing to secure the necessary votes.

On Tuesday, May 23, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure conducted a markup hearing, which is the last formal step before a bill goes to the full House for a vote. The committee advanced such bills as the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act but declined to vote on the younger driver bill after debate.

The DRIVE Safe Integrity Act, HR3408, was introduced by Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and would establish a program to allow commercial truck drivers as young as 18 to cross state lines. Currently, truck drivers must be at least 21 years old to operate in interstate commerce.

ATA’s push for the bill is built around its claims of a truck driver shortage.

The group says there is a shortage of more than 78,000 truck drivers and that recruiting kids straight out of high school is the way to combat an aging workforce. Additionally, the bill follows lackluster participation in an under-21 interstate truck driver pilot program. In March, a Senate hearing revealed that the program had only four apprentices. Earlier this month, ATA said the program still had less than a dozen.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the DRIVE Safe Integrity Act, arguing that there is not a driver shortage and that the same reasons fleets are having a difficult time retaining drivers – low wages and poor working conditions – are why younger drivers haven’t signed up for the pilot program.

“Letting 18-20-year-olds drive interstate has long been a priority for large carriers so they can maintain the cheapest labor possible,” OOIDA wrote to committee members before the hearing. “While large carriers say there is a shortage of drivers, the truth is these carriers suffer from retention and turnover problems because they don’t pay drivers enough or provide attractive working conditions. Large carriers have annual turnover rates around 90% and instead of fixing the underlying problems causing this, they want to bring in younger, less-experienced and less-expensive labor.

“This legislation would be bad for highway safety, bad for driver pay and compensation and bad for drivers’ working conditions.”

OOIDA’s message reached lawmakers as Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., referenced comments from OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh to express his opposition for the bill. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters also opposed the DRIVE Safe Integrity Act.

Truck parking

The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, HR2367, advanced through committee with a vote of 60-4.

The bill, which would provide $755 million over three years to expand truck parking capacity, is supported by OOIDA.

The committee vote means that HR2367 will now advance to the full House for a vote. If approved there, it will advance to the Senate.

“I grew up in a family trucking business,” said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill, who introduced the bill. “I understand how difficult, and oftentimes dangerous, it can be when America’s truckers are forced to park in an unsafe location. By expanding access to parking options for truckers, we are making our roads safer for all commuters and ensuring that goods and supplies are shipped to market in the most efficient way possible. This is a matter of public safety, and I’m proud to have led on this important legislation.”

Weight limits

Two bills that would allow for heavier trucks also narrowly advanced through the committee.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., introduced HR3372, which would establish a voluntary 10-year pilot program for states to increase truck weights on federal interstates up to 91,000 pounds on six axles. The bill advanced by a vote of 33-27.

The CARS Act, HR2948, would allow a 10% weight increase to 88,000 pounds for auto transporters hauling electric vehicles. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, advanced through the committee with a 30-29 vote.

OOIDA opposes both bills, saying that heavier trucks are less safe to operate and do greater damage to highways and bridges.

The Coalition for Bigger Trucks also recently spoke out against efforts to increase maximum truck weight or length limits.

“As we look to rebuild our roads and bridges, allowing heavier and longer trucks would only make matters worse,” the coalition wrote. “The U.S. Department of Transportation studies the impact of various longer and heavier truck configurations on interstate and U.S. highways and found that the additional cost of damage to both roads and bridges would require billions of dollars in new federal spending, adding to our budget deficit.” LL