Bill Would Allow Interstate Trucking Licenses For 18 Year Olds
July 13, 2015
A bill introduced in the US senate last week would lower the age limit for interstate truckers and allow 18 year olds to drive trucks across state lines. Under current federal law, drivers must be at least 21 to obtain a commercial driving license (CDL) to drive semi trucks across state lines. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb, as part of a larger transportation bill, in response to requests by the trucking industry to make up for a shortage of truck drivers nationwide.
This reduction in age limits for truckers comes after congress relaxed rules that were designed to keep sleepy truckers off the road. In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in response to an 18 percent increase in fatal truck crashes over the previous three years, enacted rules designed to require longer rest periods for drivers. The new rules reduced the amount of time truckers could spend on the road from 82 to 70 hours per week and no more than 11 hours of driving within a 14 hour workday. Under a law passed by congress, those rules were reversed in January 2015.
According to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) data from its Fatality Reporting System (FARS), 18-20 year old drivers have a fatal crash rate that is 66 percent higher than that of drivers over the age of 21.
Some states currently allow 18 year olds to qualify for a CDL license to drive trucks within state borders (intrastate) only but federal law prohibits them from driving across state lines (interstate) until they are 21. According to the trucking industry, it doesn’t make sense to allow intrastate driving by 18 year olds but prohibit them from interstate driving. However, safety advocates feel that 18 year olds don’t have the experience or the wisdom to drive big rigs safely over long distances.
The current laws that limit 18 year old truck drivers to intrastate driving basically come with a built in restriction on the number of hours the trucker can be on the road. There’s only so far you can travel within a state.
Under the proposed law, 18 year old truckers wouldn’t have the ability to drive across all state borders. States would have to enter into compacts with adjoining states to allow 18 year olds to drive across their borders but there is no limit on the number of states that could enter into such compacts. Safety advocates who are against the law fear that, with pressure from the trucking lobby, most states will enter into the compacts regardless of the possible risks.
According to the law, 18 year olds won’t be able to haul hazardous materials or to drive over-size or “specially configured” loads. States can impose additional restrictions on 18 year old drivers if they wish.
What do you think of the proposed law? Does it make sense or should the current rules stay in place? Contact your representative to share your feelings.
Read more: Teen truckers? Bill would lower interstate truck driver age to 18; industry cites shortage