DRIVE-Safe Act: A Look Under the Hood
Three senators introduced the DRIVE-Safe Act to Congress in August. The controversial bill, which would lower the age requirement for driving a big-rig across state lines to 18, is meant to combat a growing shortage of truckers in the American economy. Currently, 18-year-olds are allowed to drive big-rigs, but they may not cross state lines until the age of 21.
The Trucker Shortage
America has a major truck driver shortage. American shippers need another 51,000 drivers to meet the freight demands generated through major corporations like Amazon and Walmart. Many companies offer major signing bonuses for drivers.
Supporters of the DRIVE-Safe Act say that the bill will bring in new drivers to meet the demand. They say many people who might want to become truckers after graduating high school get turned away because of their age, and then they never come back. The DRIVE-Safe Act is meant to give drivers a chance to get started early, solving the trucker shortage.
Supporters of the bill also emphasize that these young drivers will have their CDL licenses and have to complete at least 240 hours of apprentice driving (with an experienced supervisor) before being allowed to cross any state lines. They also point out that drivers aged 18 to 20 are already allowed to have Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) and to drive within state lines—and therefore the bill isn’t much of a change.
Objections to the DRIVE-Safe Act
The main arguments against the DRIVE-Safe Act are about safety. Driving big-rigs is one of the most dangerous professions available in the United States. Lowering the age for truck drivers to be able to cross state lines would potentially give 18-year-olds the responsibility of driving an 80,000-pound load all the way across the country.
Some are concerned that young drivers might not be up to the task of driving these long hauls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers under the age of 20 are three times as likely as other drivers to be involved in a fatal car accident.
Gordon Zellers, a doctor who does physicals for drivers seeking their CDLs, opposes the bill. He says, “I always think, do I want this 18-year-old driving near my grandchildren?”
Many Americans may share his opinion.
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