Take a look around your home or workplace and consider this: Virtually every object you see has traveled in the back of a truck at some point. Truckers are the lifeblood of our economy and are absolutely essential to the quality of life we all enjoy every day. This fact was more evident than ever throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the coronavirus traveled across the United States, it became increasingly difficult for supplies to do the same. But the truckers did not withdraw; they masked themselves and got to work. And that’s a good thing, because over 70% of the country’s freight is transported by commercial trucks. In Washington State, 80% of our communities depend exclusively on trucks to transport their goods. And these trucks need drivers.
Sadly, there is a massive driver shortage that is jeopardizing the continuity of our country’s supply chain. COVID-19 has made the problem worse. Temporary closures of state departments of motor vehicle and truck driver training schools have decimated the already fragile pipeline of new drivers entering the workforce.
That’s why I’m sounding the alarm bells about the driver shortage and the threat it poses: Just as we are about to turn the corner and turn around, our economy is taking another hit. Microchip shortages, clogged shipping lanes, pent-up demand resulting from months of lockdowns and numerous rounds of government stimulus spending are pushing consumer prices up. Simply put, businesses in all sectors of the economy face higher transportation costs, forcing them to raise prices for consumers.
But a simple change in common sense would alleviate much of that pressure. Get more drivers on the road by adopting the DRIVE-Safe law. Although Washington is one of 49 states and the District of Columbia that currently allow drivers under the age of 21 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate in intra-state commerce, federal law prohibits these same people from driving. a truck across state lines until the age of 21. DRIVE-Safe Act will change that with a rigorous two-step learning program that paves the way for these existing professional drivers to become full members of the industry.
As the name suggests, the first priority of legislation is safety. We do not give the keys to just anyone. They will be some of the most skilled drivers on the road. To qualify, applicants must complete at least 400 additional hours of training – more than what is required for any other commercial driver’s license holder in the country.
In addition, all drivers participating in the apprenticeship program will only be allowed to drive trucks equipped with the latest safety technologies, including active brake collision mitigation systems, event-oriented recording cameras. forward, speed limiters set to 65 miles per hour or less, and automatic or automatic-manual transmissions. Junior professional drivers in the program will also need to be accompanied by an experienced driver during the process.
The DRIVE-Safe Act will not only help our country’s freight keep moving while keeping our roads safe and strengthening our supply chain, but it will also get people back to work. The bill will give young Americans the opportunity to enter an industry with a median salary of $ 54,585 nationally ($ 54,930 on average in Washington) as well as health and retirement benefits. Biparty legislation – which garnered the support of more than a third of the House and Senate in the 116e Congress – is really a win-win.
This is why it is essential that US Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Trade Committee, as well as US Representatives Marilyn Strickland, Adam Smith, Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Kim Schrier support the DRIVE-Safe Act.
As we have seen throughout the pandemic, truckers are crucial. We must address the growing driver shortage in the country by promoting opportunities and improved safety training for the next generation of the transportation workforce. From basic necessities to life-saving supplies, the bountiful blessings of modern life are only within reach thanks to the trucks you see on the road and the hard-working men and women behind the wheel.