Trucking Industry Looks to Recruit Teen Drivers
Truck drivers may not need a college degree, but high school graduates still have trouble getting into the industry right out of school. Those who do are limited in their scope of work until they hit 21 because of federal law. While many states allow people to get commercial licenses at 18, federal law prohibits these drivers from crossing state borders.
This limits the recruiting efforts in the industry, as many young adults are set in their career path by the time they hit 21. However, a new bill introduced by Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana is looking to remove that federal limitation.
A new bill could allow teen truck drivers to cross state lines
Introduced this past March, the bill is called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act. It would implement a 400-hour training program for drivers under 21. Upon successful completion, these younger drivers would be able to operate as normal truck drivers.
The training requirement is split up into multiple periods. First, there is a 120-hour probationary period of “on-duty time,” and 80 of those hours must be spent driving. Successful completion of this initial period would allow the driver to undergo a second 280-hour probationary period. The teen would be required to drive for a total of 160 hours in this span. The training period has been compared to internship programs at colleges and universities.
The bill is receiving support from industry groups, who welcome the potential influx of drivers to alleviate the current shortage. At the end of 2017, there was a shortage of 50,000 drivers. Based on current trends, that number will increase to 174,000 drivers in 2026. To alleviate this shortage and compensate for retiring drivers, trucking companies will need to recruit 890,000 drivers over the next decade.
Challenges faced by the bill
Safety groups, such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, are opposed to the bill, citing the risks associated with younger drivers. Data shows that drivers aged 19 to 21 are 6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident. These groups also believe the proposed training program would be inadequately regulated, due to such elements as allowing training benchmarks to be at the discretion of the companies. The inconsistency of standards is also a cause for concern. They claim shortages can be alleviated with improved working conditions to reduce the high turnover rates among drivers.
There are increased risks associated with younger and inexperienced drivers. While we understand that the driver shortage is a serious problem in the trucking industry, hiring thousands of teenagers to drive heavy commercial trucks would be trading one safety issue for another. The evidence says that these young drivers pose a significant hazard to themselves and others.
Getting into an accident with one of these trucks can have a devastating effect on your life. The truck accident lawyers at Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC help victims of tractor-trailer crashes throughout West Virginia. We know how truck accidents are different from other types of crashes - and how to handle them. Contact our office today.