The DRIVE Safe Act, part of the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law on Monday, created a path for drivers under the age of 21 to enter inter- States at a time when it has become more vital and more profitable than ever.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) on Wednesday held a call with reporters to discuss the intricacies of the bill, which he described as common sense legislation that could quickly free tens of thousands of drivers and help facilitate the supply of the country. chain cracking.
The bill establishes an apprenticeship program for young adults, already eligible to hold CDLs and drive Class 8 tractors, simply to cross state lines. King said that although he was initially reluctant to allow young drivers to do long-distance interstate trucking, the arbitrary reality of state lines ultimately convinced him.
“Right now, 18-year-olds can drive from Portland, Maine, to Kittering, Maine, which is longer than Portland, New York,” King said. “18 year olds can drive in these contexts, but they cannot cross the border.”
King said the program was a quick way to drive inflation and persistent material shortages forward in a historically tight freight market, but also a sure-fire way to help drivers early in their careers.
“The program requires candidates to use cutting edge technology including: active brake collision mitigation systems, forward facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set to 65 mph or less and [automated manual] transmissions. Applicants must successfully pass two probationary driver periods – alongside an experienced driver – and demonstrate driving proficiency and fluency through 12 performance criteria, ”King’s office said of the program. The program requires young drivers to spend 240 hours under the supervision of an experienced driver and 400 hours of driving in total.
King added that the program would be made available to drivers through their employers, so it is doubtful that young owner-operators will be able to enroll in it just yet.
King estimated that within two to three months, young drivers could complete the program and start riding on the road. Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 61,000 workers between the ages of 16 and 19 work in the field of business conduct and sales.
American Trucking Associations Chairman Chris Spear, testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the same day, expressed his strong support for the law.
“Right now, 49 states allow an 18-year-old to drive a Class 8 truck, and you can drive without any training or technical requirements,” Spear said of the current standard, which only allows young drivers to operate in a state. .
“We are sending 18-year-olds overseas to defend our freedom and do the unthinkable,” added Spear, who has a child in the military. “I’m pretty sure if we can train them to do it, we can train them to cross state lines.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, for its part, is officially opposed to the DRIVE Safe Act.
Reporters asked King how the bill would ensure the safety of supervised trainee drivers and whether insurers would cover young drivers. King’s answer was simple: The DRIVE Safe Act won’t do these things.
“This is not a complete bill to solve all of the problems in the long haul trucking industry,” King said. “This is not a comprehensive law on improving truck drivers. This is a narrowly drafted bill that will solve part of the problem, not all.
On securing insurer membership, King said the bill addresses it “not explicitly but implicitly”, with increased security requirements. “The whole panoply of safety requirements has all been designed to reassure the traveling public in terms of safety and clearly to the insurance industry that these people do not represent a risk. In terms of risk to airlines. insurance, I’m not sure it’s really growing significantly, ”he continued.
Overall, King said that while the measure did not address all recruitment and retention issues in long-haul trucking, he was confident the measure would increase the pool of eligible drivers by addressing a problem ” particularly susceptible to a legislative solution ”.
“We’re talking about people who are already in the industry. They already have CDLs in their state. They’ve already made that decision,” he said.