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Infrastructure Bill Provision Might Let Young Drivers Fix Employment Shortages in Trucking Industry

The DRIVE Safe Act has divided the trucking industry

Legislation included in the Senate-approved infrastructure bill would allow a pilot program to permit individuals over the age of 18 to drive tractor-trailers across state lines.

Currently, federal law requires that interstate truck drivers be 21 years of age. In Texas and California, young drivers are already permitted to work as long haul-tuckers within the state. Most states currently allow 18-year-olds to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

In March, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act (DRIVE) was introduced by Republican Representatives Duncan Hunter of California and Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana. The act would allow teens to drive between states after completing a 400-hour training program.

Young drivers who qualify for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) would undergo two probationary periods where an experienced driver would accompany them while they travel across state lines. During their training, a young driver would need to show certification proficiency with speed and space management, right and left turns and night driving.

The trucking industry is split between those who think this would be an unsafe venture that would not fix longstanding problems and those who think this would give young people an opportunity to fill needed openings and aid an aging workforce.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “trucking employment fell sharply at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year and was still below pre-pandemic levels this summer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some industries have pointed to the dearth of truck drivers as a drag on their ability to restock and recover from the pandemic downturn and many transport operators say the halting rebound in trucking jobs highlights longstanding problems they have had in recruiting and retaining drivers.”

The legislation, known as the DRIVE Safe Act, has the support of UPS, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, and American Trucking Associations.

In particular, the ATA “has argued that over the next 10 years, 890,000 new truck drivers must be brought into the industry, given certain factors such as retirement, retention, and demand,” per The Washington Examiner.

Critics of the bill say that the training is inadequate to properly prepare young people to operate large, commercial vehicles. They also point to data claiming they are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than older drivers.

“We are talking about really some significant public safety concerns with this bill,” Peter Kurdock, director of regulatory affairs at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told the Examiner.

He added, “It doesn’t matter how many kids they sucker into driving these trucks; it’s not going to relieve the shortage because they’re all going to leave… None of these people stay in this job because the industry refuses to change the working conditions and make it a job that people want to stay in.”

Long hours spent driving and significant time away from home have often driven people out of the trucking industry, where currently the average age of a driver is 55.

According to data from the American Community Survey, only 3% of American men and 7% of women are married by the age of 20. This could indicate that the time away from home may be easier for a younger person, who may not have the same at-home commitments as an older driver.

Changing that age restriction would also allow 18-year-olds interested in blue-collar careers to start training right after high school. Most do not pursue trucking because they find a different career while waiting to age into eligibility.

“Being able to catch people right after high school is critical,” Andrew Lynch, the co-founder and president of supply-chain company Zipline Logistics, told Business Insider.

Some experts say that increasing wages is the only real way to fix the chronic staffing problems that plague the trucking industry.

An analysis found that driver salaries are up to 50% lower than in the 1970s. While driver salaries have recently increased between 10-12%, it is not significant enough to attract drivers or keep them longterm, say some experts.

According to Michael Belzer, an economics professor at Wayne State University who studies the freight industry, “It’s really not a shortage of drivers.”

He told Business Insider, “There are people out there who are willing. They just don’t want to work for that low salary.”

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11 responses to “Infrastructure Bill Provision Might Let Young Drivers Fix Employment Shortages in Trucking Industry”

  1. rottingvermin says:

    Electronic logbooks,GPS, and driver facing cameras that monitor your face for alertness. Of course the next step is younger drivers. The trucking industry gave up on making itself more efficient and now just needs bodies to churn. I’ve witnessed drivers,after being trained, thinking the green light on the reefer unit means the fuel is full. New Covid restrictions look like the perfect reason to take this winter off.

  2. marblecreekmonarch says:

    It seems that the trucking industry is over regulated and under appreciated to be attractive. Limited to 8 hours, digital logs and tracking with little to no room on the road s to be effective. These metropolitan corridors where the majority of loads are going to and from are parking lots due to congestion, wrecks and construction. It seems setup to fail as our hub and spoke transportation system is no longer efficient.

  3. RuthlessAdmin says:

    Anybody who has watched Bonehead Truckers on Youtube, knows that the industry is sorely lacking in training and overall discipline & professionalism.

  4. Devastant says:

    I spent nearly my whole adult life as an OTR driver, and this plan is doomed to failure. Driving isn’t just a job, it is a lifestyle. A lifestyle most of these useless millenials will not tolerate. Very few people have what it takes to get behind the wheel of a large combination vehicle to begin with. Now, couple that with long hours, long distances, long time from home.

    A typical stint is 2 weeks away from home, then 1.5 days at home (on paper). The reality of that is you may be ‘scheduled’ to be home say, on a Friday. Now, that is great, it’s Wednesday, so only 2 days to go, right? Not so fast, if your home is, call it Chicago, and you’re in Dallas, well, your next trip might have a destination if North Carolina, or California, but nothing available to anywhere in the Midwest. Guess what Scooter, you’re going east or west, not the north you need. That’ll extend you out to now trying to get home from the coast, east or west. Then there will be no way to know after you deliver your load if there will be a load available to Chiraq, you might then have to take a load north on I-5 or I-95… Now, that Friday home time is actually Tuesday two weeks later. And your company isn’t going to want that truck idle for an additional 1.5 days, so the 3 days you ‘earned’ (Unpaid. Truckers are payed by the mile. If the truck isn’t moving, you get nothing.) isn’t going to happen. Amazingly, they’ll be able to have a load out 1.5 days after you get home, but almost never how to get you home on time.

    Know anyone who is going to want to do that? And that is just one aspect. There is weather, especially winter. J.I.T. loads (Just In Time) that have to be delivered at exactly the time since the load literally goes from the trailer straight onto the assembly line. Get there early and the company can’t unload you, since they have zero warehouse space, which is why they use J.I.T.. Get there late, you’ve just shut down a company or they’ll take they guy who got there early to keep going. Either way, you now have to wait until the next open spot on their schedule to drop your load. That might be 5pm, or even the next day (or more). Fun, eh?

    Then, there are ‘hotshot’ loads, pick up at 8pm and deliver at 6am the next day 500ish miles away (usually a J.I.T. load to boot). It takes a company truck, which are almost always governed at 55-62mph max speed, 10 hours to drive 500 miles on average. So, you can stop for nothing, just go like hell door to door. And, you had better be there on the dot, no excuses.

    These are just a very few of the problems a truck driver faces on the road. This doesn’t get into the serious nationwide shortage of legal and safe places to park for your mandatory rest time. Also, it doesn’t take into account that the general public has ZERO respect for trucks. A lot of people think that the air brakes will stop a truck on a dime. Well, sure they will, if that dime a football field wide (it takes a minimum of 300 feet to brake a truck from 55mph to 0 on dry pavement, much more on wet.). More than 95% of all truck/car crashes are the fault of the small vehicle. Over the years before I retired, I’ve had some friends die trying to avoid squashing an idiot 4 wheeler driver who did something stupid and avoidable. I some other friends quit driving because they squashed some moron, and they then had to live with that death.

    With just these issues (and its just the tip) out of a 100 new drivers, maybe 5, maybe a little more or less, will still be driving at the two year mark, which is about the breakpoint of where a driver is competent. Personally, I don’t know any company other than Swift (short for Sure Wish I Finished Training) or CRST (Crash and Roll Stunt Team) will hire brand new drivers to begin with. I see none that will put an 18 year old behind the wheel of a $250k tractor with a $10k trailer and lord knows the value of the freight in the trailer. And, as a tired old man, I sure as F*** don’t want to share the road with some idiot teen guiding a 40 ton missile (would that be a Not-So-Smart missile?).

    One of the

  5. NutsandSeeds says:

    Not a fan. 18 yo drivers running loads cross country is pushing your luck. It’s a tough industry and it doesn’t pay well. I don’t know how many trucking firms we’ve been through over the last 20 years but it’s been a bunch.

  6. Ravenbar says:

    Working around truck drivers a lot, this scares me. Even the older ones we’ve been hiring lately are the bottom of the barrel. Surely we don’t need inexperienced drivers running 80,000+lb trucks on the highways.

  7. Masshole says:

  8. Khao87 says:

    FedEX is pilots have a union not the FedEX drivers

  9. Old_Frog says:

    I’m sorry, but the young just don’t see truck driving as a career. With unemployment changing back to normal, many of those who left trucking to sit at home on unemployment are going to go back to work.

    When I was young, I felt I was invincible, and got in many auto accidents. Even with this law, I don’t see truck companies hiring them since the chance of an 18 year old who just got a trucking license getting in an accident is around 80% their first year.

    This is a “We’re doing something” move.

  10. UppityG says:

    *everybody is making it up as they go, and serving themselves

  11. UppityG says:

    The eternal debate over wages continues apace. I’ll just say this about that…. FedEx drivers are unionized, likely the same with UPS. As a result customer service has suffered quite a bit. Now, it’s the unions that dictate how deliveries will be done. Haven’t you noticed how, well before covid, they stopped knocking for a signature for even big ticket items? Yes, I know about the alleged tracking tokens placed in the boxes. This trend of doing just the very bare minimum, reducing how much effort they put into making the customer happy, is the result of the creeping spread of communism by any name, including unions. Unionization is a communist idea and it took off a little too fast in America and we tolerate it, partly because in all fairness, some business owners/employers will take gross advantage of their employees otherwise. This is the result of less Christian principles being applied in business.

    I didn’t say Christianity, the religion. I am a Christian and believe in God and Christ but America is not a theocracy, nor should it become one (I’m looking at you atheists and Muslims, hands off). America was founded by devout Christians, so if she was to be a theocracy, they would have put that in the Constitution. They didn’t, for very good reasons.

    Where we’ve gone wrong is we’ve allowed atheism, which is a religion, to bully us into thinking that allowing prayer in school was a violation of the separation of church and state. Of course, that’s nonsense, but enough judges, poorly selected judges, fell for their arguments. And so now we’ve gotten so far away from the essential principles promulgated by chiefly Christianity, everybody it making up as they go and serving themselves first, last and always is their god.

    We have to get back to following the same playbook and return to being a moral people, with a shared and defended standard of not just minimums below which we will not allow ourselves to fall, but standards of excellence for which we uniformly strive. And we help each other to do so.