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Changing the Laws of Logistics

The DRIVE-Safe Act: What You Need to Know

In March 2018 lawmakers proposed HR5358, known as the DRIVE-Safe Act, to Congress. Should it pass into law, this act would result in monumental changes to the trucking industry. Specifically, it proposes a solution to the massive truck driver shortage that’s currently impacting the nation’s economy. Under the DRIVE-Safe Act, individuals 18 to 21 years old with commercial driver’s licenses could make interstate deliveries. Current legislation prohibits drivers under 21 from crossing state lines. Here are the most relevant details of the act.

The Current State of Interstate Truck Deliveries

As of now, drivers as young as 18 can operate commercial tractor-trailers in most states as long as they complete the required training and receive commercial driver’s licenses. According to federal laws, however, truck drivers cannot transport goods across state lines until they are at least 21 years old. This restriction has severely limited the availability of interstate truck drivers and inhibited trucking companies from hiring and training new, younger drivers. In the face of a serious truck driver shortage, lawmakers are now working to change the rules.

The current age restriction presents a barrier for many younger people to get into truck driving, as many companies require over the road (OTR) experience, as opposed to local routes. It’s especially cumbersome in smaller places such as Washington D.C., where a younger driver couldn’t make the short trip from Arlington to Bethesda, for example, because it would require crossing state lines. Yet, the same young driver could take a load from Arlington to Norfolk (a more than six-hour drive roundtrip) since both cities are in the same state.

Trucking industry experts predict that by 2026, the current shortage of about 60,000 drivers will triple unless something changes. These negative impacts are arising from aging drivers, high turnover rates, reduced capacity, increased demand, and lifestyle priorities that make trucking an unappealing option for millennials. The DRIVE-Safe Act aims to increase the number of truck drivers available to make deliveries by addressing the age issue.

Details of the DRIVE-Safe Act

On March 21st, the House of Representatives received the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Act. The bill proposes changes to federal law that would allow commercial drivers ages 18 to 21 to operate big rigs across state lines. As of today, commercial drivers under 21 may only operate in the states in which they hold licenses. If passed into law, the DRIVE-Safe Act would initiate a two-step program that would allow younger drivers to engage in interstate commerce.

The training steps would involve driver training and performance benchmarks to make sure drivers were adequately prepared for longer hauls. The program would require eligible drivers to complete 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time (all with an experienced driver in the cab). Trucks used for training must have special safety technology such as collision mitigation systems. Lawmakers supporting the bill hope it would decrease the job shortage among 18-20-year-olds while providing much-needed drivers to the trucking industry. As of now, the bill remains in the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

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