ARLINGTON, Va., April 14, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Today, 117 organizations representing all levels of the U.S. supply chain sent a letter to transportation leaders in Congress calling for passage of the DRIVE-Safe Act, legislation to address the growing shortage of truck drivers in the nation by promoting opportunities and improving safety training for emerging members of trucking labor.

Although 49 states and the District of Colombia currently allow persons under the age of 21 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate commercial vehicles in intrastate commerce, those same persons are prohibited by federal law from driving a truck across state lines until the age of 21. The interstate commerce ban also excludes them from transporting any in-state cargo from out-of-state, such as cargo shipped by air to their home state.

The DRIVE-Safe Act would change that with a rigorous two-step apprenticeship program that paves the way for these drivers to participate in interstate commerce. As the name suggests, however, the legislation’s first priority is safety. To qualify, candidates must complete at least 400 hours of additional training, well beyond what is required of any other CDL holder in the country. All qualified drivers participating in the apprenticeship program would be accompanied by an experienced driver in the cab and would only be allowed to drive trucks equipped with the latest safety technologies, including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less, and automatic or automatic manual transmissions.

The legislation enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the 116and Congress that spanned the entire ideological spectrum and was reintroduced last month by Sens. Todd Young (R-Indiana), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Angus King (I-Maine), Kirsten Sinema (D-Arizona), jerry moran (R-Kansas) and Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) in the Senate, and by Reps. Trey Hollingworth (R-Indiana), jim cooper (D-Tennessee), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) and Darin La Hood (R-Illinois) in the House.

In the letter, supply chain officials cite the impact the driver shortage is having on their operations, freight transportation and consumer prices:

Seventy percent of the country’s freight is transported by commercial trucks, and while demand is expected to increase over the next decade, the threat posed by driver shortages threatens to disrupt supply chain continuity. This is particularly problematic as the nation and our economy recover from the monumental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a recent estimate, the trucking industry needs an immediate 60,800 additional truck drivers, a deficit that is expected to grow to over 160,000 by 2028. In fact, when the projected number of driver retirements is combined With projected capacity growth, the industry will need to hire about 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade, an average of nearly 110,000 per year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the truck driver shortage, and temporary closures of DMVs and state truck driver training schools have dried up the already fragile pipeline of new drivers entering the trucking industry.

And due to the already crippling shortage of drivers, companies in supply chains across the economy are facing higher transportation costs, driving up prices for consumers on everything from electronics to food.

The letter and the list of signatories can be consulted here.

American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils, ATA is the voice of the industry America depends on most to move our country’s freight. Follow ATA on Twitter, Facebookor at Trucking Moves America Forward.

SOURCE American Trucking Associations

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