Bill would create pilot program to allow 18-year-old CDL holders on interstate routes
WASHINGTON — Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., has introduced legislation that would create a pilot program to test the feasibility of truck drivers under the age of 21, but who have a CDL, to drive interstate routes.
In an almost concurrent move, Fischer also introduced legislation that would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to not less frequently than once every five years to conduct a comprehensive review of its rules, regulations, regulatory guidance and enforcement policies.
In introducing the pilot program bill, Fischer referred to a fact that is all too familiar among trucking circles: The U.S. trucking industry faces a driver shortage of nearly 50,000 drivers, and if current trends continue, the industry will face a shortage of 240,000 drivers by 2023.
Currently, in 48 states, drivers are allowed to operate a commercial truck on intrastate routes at 18 years of age, but current federal law requires drivers to be over the age of 21 to operate across state lines.
Under the test program, contiguous states could enter into interstate compacts for drivers to operate across state lines.
In developing any interstate agreement, participating states would provide for minimum licensure standards acceptable for interstate travel, which could include for drivers under the 21 years of age — further age restrictions, distance from origin (measured in air miles), reporting requirements or additional hours of service restrictions.
The American Trucking Associations immediately lauded Fischer’s legislation.
“In each of the continental United States, a person can get a commercial driver’s license and drive a truck at the age of 18, but federal law prevents them from driving across state lines until they reach the age of 21,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “It is illogical that a 20-year-old can drive the 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego, but not the eight miles from Memphis, Tennessee, to West Memphis, Arkansas – or simply cross the street in Texarkana (where city limits extended into both Arkansas and Texas). Even more illogical is that a 20-year-old may not drive a truck in any state if the cargo in it originated outside the state or will eventually leave the state by some other means.”
In addition, the legislation will create more job openings for recent high school graduates; a group that suffers unemployment rates up to triple that of the national average, Graves noted.
“As our population grows and our freight demands increase, we are going to need more drivers, he said, adding that Fischer’s Commercial Driver Act helps solve two problems by expanding the pool of eligible drivers and creating employment opportunities for younger Americans.
“Trucks move nearly 70 percent of our nation’s goods, and we need well-trained, professional drivers to do so,” Graves said. “We know younger drivers can operate safely hauling freight within their respective states, but the Commercial Driver Act takes a step toward showing they can safely cross state lines as well. This would be a tremendous benefit for trucking and the economy.”
Fischer’s bill to reform the FMCSA would require the agency to draw from a wider scope of sectors within the industry when performing its cost-benefit analysis. And the bill would look to provide more opportunities for stakeholder involvement in the agency’s rulemaking process.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association pointed to the need of effective driver training as a precursor to any rule changes.
“OOIDA’s priority regarding CDL rules is ensuring that the entry-level driver training rule moves through the process now that the negotiated rulemaking committee has come to consensus,” spokesperson Norita Taylor said. “No changes to existing CDL requirements should be considered until these important standards are in force.”
Source: www.thetrucker.com on June 26, 2015