Bill To Lower Interstate Driving Age To 18 Will “Likely” Pass “Fairly Soon,” Say U.S. Senators
Little Rock, Arkansas – The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act (DRIVE Safe Act), which would lower the interstate driving age for truckers to 18, has once again been introduced for consideration by U.S. federal legislators, and this time, the bill’s sponsors are confident it will pass.
In a released statement, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said he re-introduced the DRIVE Safe Act because “tens of thousands of commercial trucking jobs go unfilled each year across the United States” and he believes the new legislation would help solve this issue.
James Arnold, spokesman for Cotton, spoke to TalkBusiness.net shortly after the re-introduction of the legislation. He told the online news outlet, “We believe that passage is likely because we have Democratic support this Congress.”
Joining Cotton as sponsors of the U.S. Senate bill is a bi-partisan group which includes Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).
The version of the legislation introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives also enjoys significant bi-partisan support. It’s co-sponsors include Reps. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Paul Mitchell (R-MI), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Al Green (D-TX).
Speaking at an event in Anderson, Indiana on Friday, March 1, hosted by Carter Express Inc., Sen. Young said he was “hopeful” the legislation would be passed “fairly soon.” Young commented, “This is not an election year, so I think we have a window of opportunity here over the next six to nine months to get some bi-partisan legislation passed.”
GOP senators Cotton and Young, who were among those who previously sponsored the DRIVE Safe Act only to see it fail, are more optimistic this time around because they were able to amend the legislation to address concerns of their fellow democrat colleagues. “Working across party lines, Republicans agreed to changes requested by Democrats to position the bill for success,” Arnold told TalkBusiness.net.
“I think, most importantly, we are providing professional opportunities to young people so they can drive trucks and that’s what gets me most excited about this.” – U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN)
In order to win democratic support, lawmakers had to further define the definition of “apprentice,” who’s someone under the age of 21 with a commercial driver’s license, and ensure the apprentice would be accompanied by an experienced driver, with at least two years of experience. The previous iteration of the bill only required the trainer to have one year of safe driving experience.
If passed and signed into law an apprentice must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver/trainer in the cab. Additionally, all trucks used for training in the program must be equipped with NTSB-endorsed safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing video event capture and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour.
Trumpeting the DRIVE Safe Act’s focus on safety, Sen. Young said, “The 18-20-year-old would have to not only obtain the CDL but maintain a standard of competency and safety over and above current CDL standards.”
As Career Opportunities Increase, Consumer Costs Decrease, Supporters Say
Supporters also argue allowing 18 to 20-year-olds to operate big rigs in interstate commerce gives younger people a chance to earn a good living right out of high school and improves the chances of them developing a long-term driving career. “I think, most importantly, we are providing professional opportunities to young people so they can drive trucks and that’s what gets me most excited about this,” Sen. Young said.
This time around proponents are making their case directly to consumers by asserting that if the DRIVE Safe Act becomes law, they will see prices of goods they purchase decrease. Sen. Young explained, “This will also, of course, lead to reduced costs of the things we move. So it will benefit all consumers.”
Transportation Nation Network will continue to bring you the latest news on this issue.