Republican senators want to lower the legal age for driving a full-sized semi-truck across state lines from 21 to 18. This isn’t the first time the idea’s come up, but the trucking industry is apparently more desperate than ever to put butts in trucks.
Just to be clear; we’re talking about Class 8 commercial trucks, known to most of us as “big rigs,” which as Chief of Advocacy for Trucking Associations Dave Osiecki pointed out to AP; teens can already operate within their own state borders. The new bill would just allow them to cross state lines and ergo get jobs as professional interstate truckers.
The AP says George W. Bush’s administration tried this about ten years ago but bailed on it because “public comments the government received were overwhelmingly against the idea.”
Now the Journal Star says Senator Deb Fischer, R-Neb has brought it back and it’s been “incorporated into a larger transportation bill introduced this week by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Fischer.”
Specifically; it’s reported that the bill “would allow contiguous states that join together in ‘compacts’ to drop the age threshold to 18 for interstate trips. There is no limit on the number of states that could join the compacts.” After four years a study would be conducted to evaluate teen-trucker safety versus that of older drivers.
The American Trucking Associations has gone on record saying they’re looking at a driver shortage to the tune of 30,000 to 40,000 willing candidates, with the AP specifying “100,000 new drivers [are needed] a year over the next decade to keep pace with the country’s freight needs.”
Obviously, opposition is citing teen’s relatively poor driving record compared to their elders.
In summary; the trucking industry’s on-board with 18-year-old truckers because they’ve got empty driver seats to fill. Some Republicans are with them, presumably because the bill eliminates a roadblock to free enterprise.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and others are against it because their stats on younger driver’s crash records are ominous, while trucker unions say the driver-shortage could alternatively be solved by companies offering more pay and better working conditions.
In conclusion; I have a feeling a fresh backlash of public opposition will once again shut this thing down, but I’m eager to see the merits of this proposal discussed in the comments!
Image via Ivan/Flickr. Not an 18-year-old and not a Class 8 truck either, but you get the idea.
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