U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Wednesday reintroduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act to address the driver shortage in the trucking and logistics industry, and enhance safety training and job opportunities for young truckers. U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined as original cosponsors of the bill.
Though 49 states and the District of Columbia allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at the age 18, federal law currently prohibits those operators from moving goods from state to state until they are 21. The DRIVE-Safe Act establishes an apprenticeship program that would allow for the legal operation of a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce by CDL holders under the age of 21.
“Today, 18-year-olds can drive more than 200 miles from New Albany to Gary and back, but they aren’t allowed to drive two miles from New Albany to Louisville,” said Senator Young. “The DRIVE-Safe Act will eliminate this ridiculous regulation and in doing so address the driver shortage while providing new career opportunities for young Hoosiers.”
“Now more than ever, young Montanans need more opportunities to get comprehensive job training, access higher paying work, and grow their careers early on,” said Senator Tester. “This bipartisan bill will do just that, allowing younger truck drivers to get top-of-the-line apprenticeships that kick their careers into gear, all while providing a big boost to the thousands of communities across the Big Sky who rely almost exclusively on trucks to move goods in and out of the state.”
“Tens of thousands of commercial trucking jobs go unfilled each year across the United States. To make that problem worse, current regulations prevent younger drivers from participating in interstate trucking at all, denying them the opportunity for good-paying jobs. The DRIVE-Safe Act tackles both problems by allowing drivers under the age of 21 to pursue this career, as long as their employer adopts an apprenticeship program that includes rigorous training and safety standards,” said Senator Cotton.
“Oklahoma is rightfully recognized as one of the nation’s leading transportation hubs with 11,000 trucking companies and over 27,000 truck drivers using over 12,000 miles of highways to access and fully utilize our three inland ports and nearly 4,000 miles of rail,” said Senator Inhofe. “I am glad to join Sen. Young in cosponsoring the DRIVE-Safe Act. With this legislation, we have the opportunity to address the truck driver shortage across industries such as oil and gas, agriculture and defense that drive Oklahoma’s economic growth, while improving transportation safety and giving younger Americans the ability to access skilled careers.”
“The trucking and national supply chain network have been fundamental to America’s response to the coronavirus, moving goods to support medical personnel and sustain the public throughout this crisis,” said Senator King. “The industry is vital to our everyday life, but driver shortages threaten its future. The DRIVE Safe Act addresses these challenges by creating an apprenticeship program that works across state lines, enhances the skills of our workforce, and helps train the next generation of safe drivers. I’m proud to once again stand with my bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce this bill, and hope that the Congress will move on this commonsense solution to a pressing problem.”
“Commercial drivers are the hard-working Americans who keep our nation running day in and day out, but tens of thousands of good-paying commercial driver jobs are left empty. Federal rules currently prevent commercial drivers under 21 from crossing state lines,” said Senator Manchin. “In West Virginia, that means someone can drive 5 hours from Beckley to Weirton, but can’t drive another 15 minutes over the river to Steubenville. We should be getting West Virginians into these jobs right out of high school, but many companies just don’t want to deal with the hassle. This bipartisan legislation will help fill that gap by establishing an apprenticeship training program for young Americans interested in these good-paying jobs. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us on this commonsense bill to put Americans back to work and fill vital roles in our economy.”
“Kansas is the birthplace of the U.S. Interstate System and continues to provide a network of safe and reliable routes for interstate commerce and travel,” said Senator Moran. “As we saw during this pandemic, a shortage of truck drivers impacts our ability to move goods across roads and highways to support our economy, including transporting Kansas products. The DRIVE-Safe Act allows young CDL holders that meet rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks to move goods from state to state, addressing the driver shortage while continuing to deliver commodities across Kansas and the country.”
The apprenticeship training program would help ensure these drivers are trained beyond current standards while instituting rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks. The apprenticeship program established by the DRIVE-Safe Act would require young drivers to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab with them.
All trucks used for training in the program must be equipped with safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, a video event capture system, and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or below.
U.S. Representative Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN-09) introduced a companion bill in the House.
“DRIVE-Safe creates more career opportunities for hard-working Hoosiers to get involved in a growing, 21st century economy workforce,” said Rep. Hollingsworth. “This bill also breaks down barriers for small businesses who want to grow and hire qualified employees.”