Weekly Legislative Update April 26, 2021
TIA Supports the DRIVE Safe Act
TIA urges enactment of the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Act (H.R.1745, S.659), legislation that would establish an apprenticeship program to train 18–20-year-old qualified drivers who satisfy the common-sense safety, training, and technology requirements to operate in interstate commerce.
The bill would remove the single biggest regulatory barrier underlying the truck driver shortage while equipping young people with skills for jobs whose median pay is $54,585, plus health and retirement benefits.
Previously introduced in both the 115th and 116th Congresses with strong bipartisan support, the DRIVE Safe Act would enable 18–20-year-old apprentices—who have obtained their Commercial Driver’s Licenses to drive trucks in intrastate commerce—to drive trucks safely in interstate commerce.
The bill would amend the current minimum age requirement for interstate drivers, which was promulgated decades ago, to allow these qualified drivers to operate in interstate commerce once they have completed the following apprenticeship program requirements:
1) Satisfy a minimum of 400 hours of training and 11 performance benchmarks;
2) Complete those hours of training under the supervision of an experienced driver; and
3) Train in trucks equipped with industry-leading safety technologies, such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), event recorders/cameras, speed-limiters, and automatic transmissions.
Currently, forty-nine states and the District of Columbia allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license to operate commercial motor vehicles in intrastate commerce before they turn 21. However, federal regulations prohibit those same drivers from crossing state lines until they turn 21. Given that forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have already determined that these drivers do not inherently pose a significant safety risk to other intrastate motorists, it defies logic that these same 18–20-year-olds are legally unable to drive across state lines.
The DRIVE Safe Act would allow certified CDL holders already permitted to drive intrastate the opportunity to participate in a rigorous apprenticeship program designed to help them master interstate driving, while also promoting enhanced safety training for emerging members of the workforce.
With safety and workforce development serving as the foundation of the DRIVE Safe Act, the bill has been endorsed and supported by more than 90 companies and trade associations throughout the supply chain, including trucking, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, and restaurants.
The trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of more than 60,000 qualified drivers, coupled with a projected need to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade to keep up with increasing freight demand and workforce retirements. Younger drivers in particular are needed; the median age of an over-the-road truck driver is 49—seven years older than the average U.S. worker. With a median salary of $54,585, plus health and retirement benefits, trucking provides a stable, good-paying career to Americans.
However, these types of fulfilling careers are out of reach for many otherwise qualified 18-20 year-olds because the minimum age requirement is an insurmountable barrier to entry for new truck drivers. As a result, truck driver candidates under 21 are forced to choose different paths, including taking on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to receive an advanced degree. If motor carriers could reach this pool of potential truck driver candidates earlier on in their careers, the trucking industry would be in a better position to help candidates develop the skills, habits, and attitudes necessary for a long and satisfying career in the trucking industry.
TIA urges co-sponsorship of the DRIVE Safe Act and support for the legislation’s consideration for inclusion in an infrastructure package or surface transportation reauthorization.
TIA supports H.R.1745 and S.659.
DRIVE Safe Coalition Letter to Senate Commerce
Dear Chairman Wicker and Ranking Member Cantwell:
As the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee begins its work on the safety title to accompany a surface transportation reauthorization bill, the undersigned organizations write to express strong support for the DRIVE-Safe Act (S.569), and to urge its inclusion in the forthcoming title. This strongly bipartisan legislation, which is currently cosponsored by more than one third of the Senate, will provide the opportunity for young Americans to become truck drivers, giving them access to good paying jobs in an industry that needs them, while ensuring and promoting safety.
Though 48 states currently allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license at 18, they are prohibited from driving in interstate commerce, crossing state lines, until they are 21. The DRIVE-Safe Act would change this through a two-step apprenticeship program that creates a path for these drivers to enter the industry. As the name implies, however, the legislation’s first priority is safety. In order to qualify, candidates must complete at least 400 hours of additional training, more than what is required for any other CDL holder in the nation.
Seventy percent of the nation’s freight is carried by commercial trucks, yet as our economy strengthens, motor carriers are having difficulty finding the drivers they need to handle growing capacity. According to a recent estimate, the nation needs an additional 60,800 truck drivers immediately, a shortage that is expected to grow to more than 160,000 by 2028. In fact, when anticipated driver retirement numbers are combined with the expected growth in capacity, over the next decade, the trucking industry will need to hire roughly 1.1 million new drivers, or an average of nearly 110,000 per year. As a result of the driver shortage, companies in supply chains across the economy are facing higher transportation costs leading to increased prices for consumers on everything from electronics to food.
Trucks used in the program established by the DRIVE-Safe Act would be required to be outfitted with the latest safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less and automatic or automatic manual transmissions. Drivers training within the program will be accompanied by an experienced driver throughout the process.
The DRIVE-Safe Act will help our nation’s freight continue to move while preserving and enhancing the safety of our highway system. It will help fill desperately needed jobs and provide younger Americans with the opportunity to enter a profession where they can earn an average of $53,000 a year with full benefits.
Thank you for your attention and thoughtful consideration of this important and timely legislation. We look forward to working with you to include the DRIVE-Safe Act in the Senate Commerce Committee’s forthcoming safety title to accompany a surface transportation reauthorization package.
TIA and other trade associations