The American Trucking Association (ATA) has released a statement supporting the reintroduction of the DRIVE-Safe Act (S. 3352), plus companion bill H.R. 5358, in the U.S. House and Senate in late February. If passed, the bills could help address the nation’s growing shortage of truck drivers.
ATA President and CEO Chris Spear praised the legislation as critically important to the American economy. He said: “The strong bipartisan, bicameral support behind this legislation demonstrates how real a threat the driver shortage presents to our nation’s economic security over the long-term – and how serious our lawmakers are about addressing it with common-sense solutions.
“Given the broad coalition of interests backing this measure, there is growing understanding across the country that the impact of this issue reaches far beyond just trucking and commercial vehicles. It is a strain on the entire supply chain, from the manufacturers and producers on down to retail and the end consumer, who will see higher prices at the store,” Spear said.
About the DRIVE-Safe Act
The DRIVE-Safe Act, in conjunction with the companion bill, would allow younger drivers to drive trucks across state lines after undergoing an intense training program. While 48 states currently permit individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license and drive trucks at age 18, federal regulations prevent those drivers from crossing state lines until they turn 21.
According to the ATA, this restriction bars a vital population of job seekers from interstate trucking, exacerbating the driver shortage, as qualified candidates are lost to other industries.
DRIVE-Safe 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.
Under the legislation, once a driver has met the requirements to obtain a CDL, they would begin a two-step program of additional training that includes performance benchmarks, with candidates required to demonstrate competency for each benchmark.
In addition, they would be required to complete 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 NTSB-endorsed safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing video event capture and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour
Significantly, all of these post-CDL training, safety, and technology standards under the DRIVE-Safe Act would be required on top of all the pre-CDL training benchmarks that new drivers will be required to satisfy when the Entry Level Driver Training Rule goes in to effect in February 2020, which includes 59 different topics of knowledge and behind-the-wheel training for Class A CDL applicants.
“We thank Senators Todd Young and Jon Tester, and Congressmen Trey Hollingsworth and Henry Cuellar for their outstanding leadership in introducing this legislation, and we look forward to working closely with supporters on both sides of the aisle as we move this measure across the finish line,” said Spear.
The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). The House bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Al Green (D-Texas).
The ATA is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. It’s also a co-leader of the DRIVE Safe Act Coalition.
Some Groups Oppose the Bill
Not all organizations agree with the ATA in supporting the legislation. The last time it was introduced, the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) and other groups advocating for road safety opposed the bill. And once again, the OOIDA has voiced its strong opposition of the reintroduction of the bill in a recent letter to members of Congress.
Among the OOIDA’s arguments against passage of the bill are that using less experienced drivers would make roads less safe. In addition, it suggests that using younger drivers for lower wages would negatively impact compensation and working conditions for all truck drivers.
“We think it’s irresponsible to put young drivers behind the wheel of a truck in order to avoid addressing the real problems of high turnover,” said Todd Spencer, acting president of OOIDA, in a press release. “The focus should instead be on fixing the staggering turnover rate with better pay and working conditions.”