It’s no secret the trucking industry has struggled to recruit younger drivers in recent years. The majority of drivers are 45, with the average age being 55. Over the next 5-10 years, a large portion of the current truck driver pool will retire, creating a higher shortage of drivers than there already is.
There’s little doubt that a wave of younger drivers is needed to sustain the industry. The question is, what’s stopping younger adults from becoming truck drivers.
The Interstate Restriction
Generally, a person starts on a career path of some sort shortly after high school graduation. For some, that’s college. For others, it may be trade school or certification.
While 48 states allow 18-year olds to obtain a CDL, they are restricted from driving across state lines. This puts a cap on their possibilities and prevents them from seeking work at many major freight and logistics companies until they’re 21.
There is a bill being proposed, however, that would lower the interstate commercial driving age from 21 to 18. It’s called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act or DRIVE-Safe. Along with lowering the age requirement, the bill would introduce an apprenticeship program for drivers under 21.
This would require 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab. Special emphasis would be placed on safety training and exceeding industry standards. Trucks used for training would be equipped with the latest safety technology, including braking collision mitigation systems, video capturing, and a speed governor that limits max speed to 65 mph.
The Upside of DRIVE-Safe
Proponents of DRIVE-Safe believe that one of the biggest hurdles for younger people joining the trucking industry is the fact that they have to wait three years after high school before they can really begin. With DRIVE-Safe, they’d be able to go directly from high school graduation into an apprenticeship program.
Supporters also point out certain logical fallacies in the current system. For example, drivers who are under 21 can go across an entire state as large as Montana, but they can’t go 20 miles into a neighboring state.
The ATA (American Trucking Association) has officially put their support behind the bill.
The Downsides of DRIVE-Safe
At the age of 18, a person has only been driving a car by themselves for 2 years, maybe 3 under special restrictions. Critics of the bill say that teenagers are simply too young and inexperienced to be operating tractor-trailers across states.
It is true that accident rates are higher among younger drivers. While there is the added emphasis on safety training with DRIVE-Safe, opponents don’t believe it’s enough.
Additionally, critics say the bill fails to address the real reasons behind truck turnover, including pay, working conditions, and more.
Providing Better Opportunities for Current Truck Drivers
Only time will tell if the DRIVE-Safe Act will be passed. In the meantime, truck operators looking for work can find some great opportunities here at Woodruff Enterprises. Our benefits include consistent miles, paid vacation, quality at-home time, no touch freight, and more!
We’re looking for both part-time and full-time drivers, with openings for owner operators and standard operators.