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Trucking Industry: Let Teens Drive

Trucking companies are pushing Congress to weaken age limits for drivers, which they say will reduce a recruiting shortfall. This is what the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday in an article focusing on the idea that trucking companies want Congress to make it easier for drivers as young as 18 to get behind the wheel of a big rig.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that employment within the trucking industry was largely stagnant during the summer months but has tailed off early in the fall.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: total employment trails off in September

The ailing industry may soon need to tap a younger generation to replenish its driving force. States can grant anyone over the age of 18 a commercial license; however, one must be aged 21 or older in order to transport freight over state lines. 

“Drivers today can drive from San Francisco to San Diego, but can’t
cross the street in Texarkana,” a city on the Texas-Arkansas border,
said Rob Abbott, vice president for safety policy at the American
Trucking Associations, an industry group. “That’s an imaginary boundary.
It’s illogical.”

Currently, a bill working through Congress provides some hope to the industry that this insensible rule will soon be eliminated. The bill would create a "pilot program allowing groups of states to create 'compacts' permitting truckers under 21. The Senate version lowers the minimum age to 18, while the House bill allows drivers older than 19-and-a-half."

The House has yet to vote on its legislation, so another short-term extension in order to come to a decision seems likely.

Trucking companies have offered more lucrative compensation packages in recent months to attract new drivers, but it isn't working; Abbott says that "getting young people into trucking was near the top of the list of priorities."

Bureau of Labor Statistics: compensation up, but still a struggle to attract new drivers

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety hold a different view: “Eighteen, 19 and 20 year old drivers, whether behind the wheel of a car
or a truck, are high-risk drivers,” said Jackie Gillan, the group’s
president. “This just makes the motoring public into guinea pigs in a
very dangerous experiment.”
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