On March 21, 2018, representatives Duncan Hunter of California and Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana, with the support of the International Foodservice Distributors Association and the American Trucking Associations, introduced a bill that would provide a pathway for 18 to 21-year-olds to obtain a CDL for interstate travel.
Currently the vast majority of states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license at age 18, but drivers younger than 21 years of age are restricted from moving goods across state lines. According to proponents of the the DRIVE-Safe Act, this stipulation is especially problematic in areas like the D.C Metro area where a younger driver can make the six-hour roundtrip between Arlington and Norfolk, Virginia, but the same driver cannot make the one-hour roundtrip between Arlington, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland.
According to the IFDA, the DRIVE-Safe Act, officially named the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, addresses a nationwide shortage of drivers that disproportionately impacts the foodservice industry. Reports estimate that 890,000 new drivers will be required over the next decade in order to replace an aging workforce.
“This legislation paves the way for new drivers to sustain a safe and efficient supply chain for the more than one million restaurants and foodservice outlets in the United States,” said Mark Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer of IFDA. “This bill creates opportunity, while reinforcing a culture of safety far and above current standards, to provide the next generation of drivers with the critical skills they need to operate a truck in the 21st century,” he concluded.
In addition to reducing the age limit, the DRIVE-Safe Act would introduce a new two-step training program for prospective interstate drivers aged 18 to 21. Once a driver obtains his or her CDL, he or she would enter an additional training program that includes a 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab. Trucks to train drivers would be governed at 65 mph and must be equipped with safety technology, including active collision mitigation systems and video event capture.
However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has recently come out against the DRIVE-Safe Act. “We think it’s irresponsible to put young drivers behind the wheel of a truck in order to avoid addressing the real problems of high turnover,” said Todd Spencer, acting president of OOIDA. “The focus should instead be on fixing the staggering turnover rate with better pay and working conditions.”
The OOIDA has opposed previous efforts to lower interstate commercial driver ages, and its stance on the DRIVE-Safe Act is no different. A letter sent to U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on April 13, signed by the OOIDA along with various other advocacy groups, points to the fact that “CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes, and CMV drivers who are 19-20 years of age are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes,” among other similar statistics as reasons for their opposition to the bill.
Todd Spencer concludes, "This has been tried before and no one with any common sense thought it was a good idea. Nothing has changed since that time, and no disruptions have ever taken place due to any perceived shortage of drivers. These latest efforts are just more ways to keep driver churn going and keep wages as low as possible.”