Lawmakers in the Senate and House introduced on Feb. 26 legislation to address the urgent shortage of truck drivers. The DRIVE-Safe Act updates federal law to empower the trucking industry to fill these gaps with a qualified, highly trained emerging workforce. The bill has two main goals: It removes age restrictions on interstate transportation by licensed commercial drivers and strengthens safety-training standards across the industry. Young adults become eligible to seek commercial driver’s licenses at age 18 in most states; however, federal law currently prohibits these commercially licensed adults from driving across state lines before age 21.
The change in age requirement will be a relief to the food industry. The International Foodservice Distributors Association said that the driver shortage is particularly straining on the foodservice distribution industry, as it delivers hundreds of thousands of perishable products each day and the federal age restriction on interstate transportation creates an “absurdity in places like the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland metro area, where a licensed foodservice distribution driver is prohibited from making a five-mile delivery from Arlington to D.C. yet may drive 200 miles to Virginia Beach.”
The bill also enhances safety and training standards for newly qualified and current drivers. Under the legislation, once a driver qualifies for a commercial driver’s license, they begin a two-step additional training program with rigorous performance benchmarks. Drivers must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time in the cab with an experienced driver. Every driver will train on trucks equipped with new safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture, and a speed governor of 65 miles per hour or below.
“Providing this workforce development opportunity for young drivers will lead to more comprehensive training, expanded career options, and access to higher paying jobs,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont, a sponsor of the bill.