Responding to a question about the DRIVE-Safe Act, US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said it was something that could be considered as long as “safety concerns” were met.

At a Senate Subcommittee hearing on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development last week, Senator Mike Braun, R-Ind., Asked Buttigieg if the U.S. DOT would consider implementing the DRIVE Act. -Safe, which would allow 18-year-olds to become long-haul truckers.

“I think it’s something we can explore as long as we address all the security issues that come with it,” Buttigieg said. “We know that experienced drivers are the safest drivers, but in your opinion, you need to start gaining experience at some point.”

The DRIVE-Safe Act, S659, was introduced by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., And is intended as a solution to claims that there is a shortage of truck drivers. The current minimum age for driving a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce is 21 years old. The DRIVE-Safe Act would allow drivers as young as 18 to cross state borders.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Teamsters, and many safety groups have spoken out against the DRIVE-Safe Act.

Earlier this month, a coalition comprising OOIDA, Teamsters, and road and motor safety advocates wrote to the leaders of a Senate transportation subcommittee about the dangers of lowering the l age of long-haul truck drivers.

Young driver statistics

“Studies of young drivers of light commercial vehicles show that as the driver’s age decreases, the rates of involvement in fatal truck crashes increase,” the coalition wrote.

The groups cited studies indicating that commercial vehicle drivers aged 19 to 20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than all truck drivers.

In addition, a 2015 public opinion poll commissioned by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety showed that 73% of the public was against teenage truck and bus drivers operating a CMV in interstate commerce. , wrote the coalition.

Shortage of drivers?

OOIDA and other coalition members also maintain that there is no shortage of drivers. Instead, groups say the real problem is a problem with driver retention due to low wages and poor working conditions.

The coalition reports turnover rates of 90% or more for major motor carriers and more than 450,000 new commercial driver’s licenses are issued each year.

Additionally, a 2019 report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics contradicts claims by the American Trucking Associations for decades that there has been a shortage of truck drivers. The report concluded that the evidence does not support a labor shortage and that increasing wages could alleviate recruitment and retention problems.

While there is no shortage of drivers, the coalition said there was no justification for lowering the driving age between states and “endangering” the public by adopting the DRIVE-Safe law.

“Instead of pushing forward initiatives that will not solve the retention problem but degrade public safety, the industry should focus on keeping drivers safe through better, safe working conditions,” the coalition wrote.

Buttigieg said during the hearing that the Biden administration is looking at any issues that may affect the supply chain. President Joe Biden recently announced the formation of a new task force to address supply chain disruptions. The task force includes Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“Our commitment is to seek solutions that balance security, economic needs and all other considerations that affect us, because that is a real concern,” Buttigieg said. LL


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