DRIVE-Safe Act Seeks to Address Truck Driver Shortage
(July 2021) - At present, CDL holders must be at least 21 years old to engage in interstate commerce. This could soon change if the DRIVE-Safe Act (S.659, H.R.1745), which has received bipartisan support, is greenlit by Congress. The legislation is aimed at addressing a nationwide shortage of drivers by allowing CDL holders aged 18 to 21 to engage in a two-step apprenticeship program that would ultimately permit them to cross state lines.
On April 14, 2021, over 100 organizations signed a letter sent to members of Congress expressing support for including the DRIVE-Safe Act in forthcoming infrastructure legislation. The letter explains that 70% of our nation’s freight is carried by commercial trucks, and that demand is only expected to rise. According to these industry leaders, the trucking industry needs an immediate influx of 60,800 truck drivers and the demand is rising. Additionally, they argue that “the threat posed by the driver shortage stands to disrupt the continuity of the supply chain.”
To qualify under the DRIVE-Safe Act, candidates would be required to complete 400 hours of additional training, which is far beyond what is required of any other CDL holder. Furthermore, “all qualified drivers who participate in the apprenticeship program … would only be allowed to drive trucks outfitted with the latest safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less, and automatic or automatic manual transmissions.” While participating in the apprenticeship program, qualified drivers must also be accompanied by an experienced driver.
While the DRIVE-Safe Act continues to gain support, it should be noted that the bill is opposed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). Time will tell whether the DRIVE-Safe Act receives enough support to pass through Congress.