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Congress considers bill that would allow more young truck drivers

There currently aren't enough truck drivers in this country to transport the goods we rely on every day. Late deliveries aren't just inconvenient for consumers. They can be costly for trucking companies and retailers. For example, Walmart fines companies for shipments that are late or incomplete. According to the Food Marketing Institute, grocery stores lose some $75 billion every year because of unsaleable and out-of-stock products that aren't delivered on time.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that the industry currently has 51,000 fewer drivers than are needed. That shortage is expected to climb to nearly 100,000 within the next three years.

Members of Congress are seeking to remedy that shortage with legislation that would allow truck drivers who are under 21 to transport goods across state lines. Currently, federal law allows drivers this young to transport goods only in the states where they received their driver's licenses.

The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, known as the DRIVE-Safe Act, was introduced by two Republican congressmen. The current language in the bill would require young drivers to have a total of 640 hours of training before they can be licensed for interstate travel.

The proposed legislation has been praised by the head of Advanced Training Systems (ATS), which describes itself as "the industry leader in self-paced driver training simulation systems." He said, "This legislation will help train drivers to a level far and above current licensing standards. It creates opportunity while reinforcing a culture of safety."

Others have expressed concerns about the safety issues in having young drivers behind the wheel for interstate truck deliveries. Younger drivers are statistically more prone to be involved in crashes. Aside from the inherent dangers to these drivers and others on the road, the increased insurance costs could negate any financial gain that trucking companies would experience by beefing up their workforce with young people.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has called the proposed legislation "irresponsible" and simply a band-aid for the problem. The driver shortage, it says can be remedied by improving pay and truckers' working conditions.

Drivers and passengers can suffer severe and, too often, fatal injuries in crashes involving commercial vehicles. While many people say that they don't have time to "follow politics," legislation that impacts who can be behind the wheel of a commercial truck affects all of us who travel the roads of Kentucky.

Source: Supply Chain Dive, "BRIEF Can teenagers safely solve the truck driver shortage?," Barry Hochfelder, accessed June 01, 2018

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