13 September 2021

The proposed legislation to test letting 18-year-olds drive big rigs interstate is exposing a divide in the trucking sector, where companies are having trouble finding workers for such jobs.

The Senate approved a new provision in the infrastructure bill to set up a pilot program that would allow 18-20-year-olds across state lines. Most states already have similar laws, but federal rules restrict those drivers from doing any driving outside of their state territory.

Some say it will help expand their pool of available trucking jobs, but others point out that there are still many problems with wages and hours behind the wheel which make them leave other blue-collar work such as construction for freight transportation positions.

The American Trucking Association is working to make sure that young people can drive trucks across state lines and safely log long hours in the occupation.

“This pilot program will demonstrate this,” said Bill Sullivan, its executive vice president of advocacy.

Proponents of lowering the federal age limit say that plenty of young commercial driver’s license holders already drive long distances within large states like Texas and California. They also point out this proposed apprenticeship program will add another layer of safety beyond what is needed for a regular learners permit.

Trucking employment fell sharply at the start of last year’s coronavirus pandemic and was still below pre-pandemic levels this summer, according to data from BLS. While some industries have pointed out that a shortage in truck drivers has slowed them down during recovery times as well-many transport operators agree it highlights how important they are for business success.

The infrastructure bill was a huge step forward for the trucking industry. The pilot program will allow up to 3,000 drivers at a time in heavy-duty and tractor-trailer trucks that employ about 1.8 million people.

The American Trucking Association has petitioned the Transportation Department to lift their ban on interstate truck drivers under 21. This would help meet the demand for new freight, as well as retrain and rehire retired workers by 2023 when they predict 100K people will be needed in this capacity but only have half of today’s retirements coming up through retirement age.
This change could have an impact on trucking companies who are having trouble finding workers for such jobs, as well as those states with similar laws. What do you think about this possible change? Let us know in the comments below!