DRIVE-Safe Act: What It Is and How It Works

04.18.2019 - 10:00 AM Comments: 0

According to U.S. law, individuals can typical obtain a license once they turn anywhere from 14 to 17 years old depending on which state they reside in but have to be at least 21 years old in order to become a professional truck driver. However, the Senate introduced a new piece of legislation called the DRIVE- Safe Act, which would reduce the age to 18 years old. Although it received bipartisan support, it did not make it to a vote. The bill has been introduced again this year, and it has set the trucking world ablaze with conversation. In this article, we break down how the bill works and the arguments for and against it.

How does the DRIVE-Safe Act work?

H.E. 5358, or the DRIVE-Safe Act, would work by lowering the federal law for truck drivers from 21 to 18. However, that’s not all the bill does. Any individual who would fall into that category would also have to complete 240 hours of “on-the-road experience” supervised by an experienced truck driver. The trucks that individuals complete their training in would also have required safety features, such as “automatic ‘active breaking’ systems and dashboard video capture.” This training would serve to equip young drivers with the safety skills and knowledge needed to operate a large vehicle.

The “For” Argument

This bill was introduced to Congress because America is facing a trucker shortage; currently, America is facing a shortage of 51,000 truck drivers, up from 36,000 three years ago. Soon, almost 1 million drivers and truck technicians will be needed to replace a retiring workforce and keeping up with the global industry. We’ve written before about how a global workforce and the rise of immigrant truck drivers can help fill the gap, but that is only one part of the solution. This bill can help solve the issue by opening trucking to recruiting younger.

Lowering the age limit to drive trucks can remedy the worker gap by freeing up 18 to 20-year-olds who are not interested in accumulating college loan debt and are looking for a trade career. The current trend for truckers is to enter the workforce at age 30. Lowering the barrier to entry can skew down the average age to entry, which would mean a workforce that works longer.

The “Against” Argument

no policy is perfect, and the DRIVE Safe Act is no exception. There are a few potential problems that come with lowering the age limit for truck drivers. For one, younger people are statistically more likely to get into car accidents on any given day. Teenagers get into triple the car accidents as those who are 20 and older; now imagine them in the hands of a big rig. This is because younger people do not have fully formed pre frontal cortexes, which is the part of your brain that is responsible for decision making and inhibition.

”There’s also no evidence that young people are clamoring to get truck licenses.” What if trucking has gone out of vogue for the Millennial/Gen Z population? Would the potential benefit of filling a sizable gap in the truck workforce justify the potential cost of more accidents? What if there are more trucking accidents than there are new workers? Perhaps the required trainings could help teach younger drivers the responsibility of driving safely, but is there any way to measure accountability? It would seem then that lawmakers need to gather more data on just how many young people would get their trucking license if allowed to do so.

Where you come in

The arguments for and against the DRIVE-Safe act are both convincing. Whether you support the legislation or not, call your representatives and let them know what you think.

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