The trucking industry in the United States is facing a severe shortage of drivers. This has a dramatic effect on the economy. The supply chain has been disrupted which has caused the prices of many consumer goods to rise. This is a situation that truckers and consumers both wish to avoid.
Why is there a trucking shortage? In part, it is due to an aging trucker population. The average age of a trucker is in the mid 40’s, and as more truckers retire, there are fewer truckers to take their place. One remedy to the situation is to ease the process in which young people can become truckers. This is the purpose of the DRIVE-Safe Act currently proposed in Congress.
The DRIVE-Safe Act (S.659) is a bill currently in the Senate that has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. It is sponsored by Todd Young [R-IN], with 30 co-sponsors. DRIVE stands for “Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy”.
The intent of the DRIVE-Safe Act is to require “the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations relating to commercial motor vehicle drivers under the age of 21, and for other purposes.”
The bill aims to deal with a barrier to entry for young truck drivers, namely, that they must be at least 21 years old to perform interstate trucking. The DRIVE-Safe Act wants to set up a system of apprenticeship where drivers between the ages of 18-20 can begin careers in trucking.
The act sets up a two step approach. Under the program, once an under-21-year-old driver receives their commercial driver’s license (CDL), they can complete two probationary periods of on-duty time for a total of 400 hours. The apprentice must be accompanied in the cab by an experienced driver and at least 240 hours must be driving time in a commercial motor vehicle.
Further, the bill aims to ensure that proper safety procedures are in place for the apprentice by requiring all commercial motor vehicles used in the program be equipped with safety technology, such as active braking collision mitigation systems and video event capturing systems. This is to counter fears that younger drivers may be too reckless or inexperienced to be trusted.
The goal of the DRIVE-Safe Act is to build up a base of young truck drivers in the country. Currently, drivers must wait until they turn 21 before they can perform interstate trucking. This means the industry misses out on potential drivers between the ages of 18 and 20. These young adults may be looking for work immediately and cannot wait.
So with the DRIVE-Safe Act, potential drivers begin as soon as they are 18. This prevents potential drivers jumping to other industries before they turn 21.
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The DRIVE-Safe Act has potential to dramatically reshape the trucking industry. If implemented as intended and presented, the act would increase the number of young drivers in the trucking industry.
The trucking industry is very concerned about the aging population of their drivers. Each year more and more drivers are retiring. At the same time, young adults, particularly those out of high school who do not go to college, can find the 21 year old interstate age requirement as a barrier to entry because they may not be able to wait.
With the DRIVE-Safe Act, a system can be put in place to attract younger drivers. The apprenticeship program provides safe experiential training. The apprentices are also paid for their work, which is another benefit of the program.
The DRIVE-SAFE Act was introduced by Senator Todd Young of Indiana. The bill also has 30 co-sponsors. They are:
Sen. Tester, Jon [D-MT] (original cosponsor)
Sen. Moran, Jerry [R-KS] (original cosponsor)
Sen. Manchin, Joe, III [D-WV] (original cosponsor)
Sen. Inhofe, James M. [R-OK] (original cosponsor)
Sen. King, Angus S., Jr. [I-ME] (original cosponsor)
Sen. Cotton, Tom [R-AR] (original cosponsor)
Sen. Sinema, Kyrsten [D-AZ] (original cosponsor)
Sen. Hyde-Smith, Cindy [R-MS]
Sen. Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN]
Sen. Blunt, Roy [R-MO]
Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME]
Sen. Risch, James E. [R-ID]
Sen. Braun, Mike [R-IN]
Sen. Wicker, Roger F. [R-MS]
Sen. Marshall, Roger [R-KS]
Sen. Daines, Steve [R-MT]
Sen. Ernst, Joni [R-IA]
Sen. Cruz, Ted [R-TX]
Sen. Lummis, Cynthia M. [R-WY]
Sen. Scott, Rick [R-FL]
Sen. Boozman, John [R-AR]
Sen. Capito, Shelley Moore [R-WV]
Sen. Crapo, Mike [R-ID]
Sen. Tillis, Thomas [R-NC]
Sen. Graham, Lindsey [R-SC]
Sen. Cramer, Kevin [R-ND]
Sen. Hoeven, John [R-ND]
Sen. Paul, Rand [R-KY]
Sen. Toomey, Patrick [R-PA]
Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL]
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The DRIVE-Safe Act is currently in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation after being read twice. It is up to the Committee Chairperson to decide whether or not to bring the bill up to debate and vote on the Senate floor. This tacitly would have to be approved by the majority party’s leaders.
There are three bills related to the DRIVE-Safe Act. H.R.1745, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act is the House of Representatives equivalent to the Senate’s DRIVE-Safe Act and was referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. This bill currently has 134 cosponsors.
There is also H.R.3341, the STARTER Act 2., referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, and S.2016, the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021, which was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
Is the DRIVE-Safe Act good for the trucking industry?
Yes, the DRIVE-Safe Act will be good for the trucking industry, if it is implemented as intended. By removing a barrier of entry that allows commercial drivers between the ages of 18-20 the chance to perform interstate commerce, the industry will be able to bring in more drivers.
Who supports the DRIVE-Safe Act?
The DRIVE-Safe Act has vast support in the trucking industry. Nearly 90 companies and trade associations support the bill, including the American Trucking Association.
When will the DRIVE-Safe Act become a law?
It is unclear when or if the DRIVE_Safe Act will be passed into law. The DRIVE-Safe Act first has to be debated and passed in the Senate. Then it needs to be debated and passed in the House of Representatives. After this, the bill must then be signed into law by the President.