Dear Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves:
As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee begins its work on the Invest In America Act, the undersigned organizations write to express our strong support for including the provisions of the DRIVE-Safe Act (HR 1374) in the legislation. This strongly bipartisan bill, which is cosponsored by nearly one-third of the House of Representatives, 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, and even though our economy is struggling with the Covid-19 crisis, motor carriers are having difficulty finding the drivers they need. Truck drivers are considered to be essential critical infrastructure workers and remain in strong demand to ensure consumers have the food and other essential items they need during this crisis. With the growth in online ordering and delivery in response to the pandemic, this demand will only grow. 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. Unless we grow the number of drivers entering the industry, companies in supply chains across the economy will face 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 urge you to include the provisions of the DRIVE-Safe Act in the Invest in America Act during the Committee's upcoming legislative markup.
The Tire Industry Association and other trade associations.