Trucking associations in the US are applauding the reintroduction of a bill aimed at easing the nation’s shortage of truck drivers.
The DRIVE-Safe Act was reintroduced February 26 by 14 Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, and trade association leaders say they are hopeful strong bipartisan support will help push the measure forward this year, reports DC Velocity.
The bill aims to lift age restrictions that prevent drivers from crossing state lines and to improve safety and training through a rigorous apprenticeship program, proponents said. The DRIVE acronym stands for Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy.
“We feel confident that we will build a lot of support for this,” said Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), one of more than 50 trade groups backing the bill.
The truck driver shortage touches all aspects of the supply chain, Allen and others argue, pointing to rising freight rates and increasing consumer prices as by-products of the problem.
“Given the broad coalition of interests backing this measure, there is growing understanding across the country that the impact of this issue reaches far beyond just trucking and commercial vehicles,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said following the reintroduction of the bill. “It is a strain on the entire supply chain, from the manufacturers and producers on down to retail and the end consumer, who will see higher prices at the store.”
Lifting driver age restrictions is a key part of the proposal. Although 48 states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and drive trucks at age 18, federal regulations prevent those drivers from crossing state lines until they turn 21. Proponents of the bill call the federal regulation outdated and say it limits the potential pool of candidates for open truck driver positions.
What’s more, expanding the pool of candidates will open new career opportunities for young people seeking good-paying jobs, Allen added.
Improving safety and training is another key part of the bill. The DRIVE-Safe Act would allow certified CDL holders already permitted to drive intrastate the opportunity to participate in an apprenticeship program designed to help them master interstate driving, while also promoting enhanced safety training for emerging members of the workforce, IFDA and other supporters said.
The apprenticeship program provides CDL drivers an additional, two-step training program with what supporters describe as rigorous performance benchmarks. Drivers must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time in the cab with an experienced driver. Every driver will train on trucks equipped with new safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture, and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour.
“There is a road ahead, but we’re optimistic,” Allen said. “In this day and age, there’s nothing done that is bipartisan [so] to see legislation that’s got support from Republicans, Democrats, from urban areas, rural areas and from different parts of the country [indicates to us] that we will continue to build support.”