A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation designed to attract more people to the truck driving profession and improve safety across the industry.
Today, members in both the House and Senate introduced the DRIVE-Safe Act, a bill that aims to lift age restrictions that prevent drivers from crossing state lines and improve safety and training through a rigorous apprenticeship program, according to supporters. The DRIVE acronym stands for Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy.
Today’s action marks the introduction of the bill in the 117th Congress; it was last introduced in 2019.
The bill is backed by a coalition of more than 50 companies and trade associations, including the International Food Distributors Association (IFDA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Both groups say the legislation will help ease a nationwide truck driver shortage and spur the country’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The DRIVE-Safe Act comes at a time when the national economy is reeling from pandemic-related job losses,” Mark S. Allen, IFDA’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “At the same time, the pandemic highlighted how essential professional drivers are to our everyday life, increasing the demand for this specific kind of job. The DRIVE-Safe Act will hasten our economic recovery by providing an opportunity for new drivers to enter the workforce while reinforcing a culture of safety far and above current standards.”
The bill aims to lift federal restrictions that keep commercial drivers under age 21 from crossing state lines. Most states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at age 18, but federal law prohibits them from driving across state lines. The bill also aims to expand the pool of candidates for driver jobs—by attracting workers who might otherwise pursue construction or other trade-industry jobs, for instance—and enhance safety and training programs throughout the industry.
Under the proposal, when drivers meet the requirements to obtain a CDL, they can begin a two-step program of additional training, requiring at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab with them. All trucks used for training in the program must be equipped with safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture, and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or less, according to IFDA and ATA.
“This bill has strong, bipartisan backing because it’s both common sense and pro-safety,” Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO, said in a statement. “It raises the bar for training standards and safety technology far above what is asked of the thousands of 18- to 20-year-old drivers who are already legally driving commercial vehicles in 49 states today. The DRIVE Safe Act is not a path to allow every young person to drive across state lines, but it envisions creating a safety-centered process for identifying, training, and empowering the safest, most responsible 18- to 20-year-olds to more fully participate in our industry. It will create enormous opportunities for countless Americans seeking a high-paying profession without the debt burden that comes with a four-year degree.”
The bill has eight co-sponsors in the Senate and nine co-sponsors in the House.