Long-Distance for Lads

Large trucks travel along Interstate 278 in the Red Hook neighborhood of New York. A few federal proposal would allow younger drivers behind the wheels. (Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg News)

By Reagan Payne

In an industry with growing demand and a shrinking labor force, executives everywhere are figuring ways around the gap. An age-old avenue is seeing new traffic: adults under drinking age.

This population is old enough to enlist in the U.S. Military, but some question if they can cross state lines for long-distance trucking deliveries. Those pushing back are mostly major safety organizations such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The only way to gain the support of these groups is “if there was ever any independent research that we had confidence that it was safe for teen truckers to travel on interstate roads,” according to Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

Those opposing interstate travel argue that data shows drivers younger than 21 are far more dangerous on the roads. However, 49 states already allow drivers over the age of 18 to obtain commercial driver’s licenses. These drivers simply cannot cross state lines.

Why not?

“(It’s) really frustrating not being able to cross state borders after I drive 11 hours inside Florida,” Orestes Reyes wrote. He is 19 years old and because of the current rules he has turned down trucking jobs that require him to travel outside his home state in his own commercial truck.

While at first glance this restriction may seem logical, especially citing the data about young, dangerous drivers, when considering differing state sizes and route lengths, anyone could realize that the difference is already slim. 

“The reason that we want to reach people at the beginning of their work life is so we can present a career in trucking that can support their life and career over a longer period of time,” said Bill Sullivan, executive vice president for advocacy at the American Trucking Associations.

Legislation

These groups have even attempted compromises. Proposed bills lower the limit for interstate truckers in addition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pilot program. Any change in White House Administration brings hurdles to issues such as these.

This pilot program would allow drivers who are 18 to 20-year-old CDL holders to operate CMVs in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer. The program would also include 19- and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and have at least 25,000 miles of experience.

“Beta testing on public roadways where everyone is imperiled is not the safest way to test this science experiment,” Chase argues.

But Sullivan recognizes the fault in her statements.

“The people who are squealing about safety aren’t coming to the table to figure it out,” he said.

Reagan Payne is a staff writer for Wright Media. She can be reached at rpayne@wrightmediacorp.com.

Are you a young, experienced commercial driver like Oerstes frustrated by the rule that prevents you from crossing state lines for interstate commerce or a carrier interested in bringing the Under-21 driver aboard? Contact Reagan to share your thoughts.

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