A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation designed to attract more people to the profession of truck driver and improve safety across the industry.
Today, members of the House and Senate introduced the DRIVE-Safe Act, a bill that aims to lift age restrictions that prevent drivers from crossing state borders and improve safety and training through a rigorous apprenticeship program, according to supporters. The acronym DRIVE stands for Developing Responsible Individuals for a Dynamic Economy.
Today’s action marks the bill’s introduction to the 117th Congress; it was last introduced in 2019.
The bill is supported 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 alleviate a nationwide truck driver shortage and boost the country’s economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The DRIVE-Safe Act comes at a time when the national economy is reeling from job losses linked to the pandemic,” Mark S. Allen, president and CEO of IFDA, said in a statement. âAt the same time, the pandemic has highlighted how essential professional drivers are to our daily lives, increasing the demand for this specific type of job. The DRIVE-Safe Act will accelerate our economic recovery by providing the opportunity for new drivers to enter the workforce while strengthening a safety culture well above current standards.
The bill seeks to lift federal restrictions that prevent commercial drivers under the age of 21 from crossing state borders. Most states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) by the age of 18, but federal law prohibits them from crossing state borders. The bill also seeks to broaden the pool of candidates for driver jobs – by attracting workers who might otherwise pursue construction or other jobs in the trade industry, for example – and to improve safety and training programs throughout the industry.
According to the proposal, when drivers qualify for a CDL, they can begin an additional two-stage training program, requiring at least 400 hours of service and 240 hours of driving 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 brake collision mitigation systems, video event capture, and cruise control set to 65 miles per hour. or less, according to IFDA and ATA.
“This bill enjoys strong bipartisan support because it is both sound and security-friendly,” Chris Spear, ATA chief executive officer, said in a statement. âThis raises the bar for training standards and safety technologies well above what is required of the thousands of drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 who already legally drive commercial vehicles in 49 states today. The DRIVE Safe Act is not a route for every young person to cross state borders, but it envisions creating a safety-centric process to identify, train and empower the safest 18-20 year olds and the most responsible. participate fully in our industry. This will create huge opportunities for countless Americans looking for a well-paying profession without the burden of debt that comes with a four-year degree. “
The bill has eight Senate co-sponsors and nine House co-sponsors.