The federal government will now allow drivers as young as 18 to drive semi trucks across state lines. The government is setting up an apprenticeship program in the hopes of alleviating the current shortage of truckers nationwide.
18 Year Olds Can Now Drive Semi Truck Across State Lines
Prior to the apprenticeship program, the trucking industry is hurting from a lack of drivers. This shortage started during the pandemic, when many older drivers ostensibly retired, unwilling to risk themselves to the coronavirus.
At the same time, deliveries increased as more and more people stayed home and stocked up. Last October, the head of the American Trucking Associations said that the US will need at least 80,000 more truck drivers.
Previously, only individuals 21 years old can get commercial truck driver’s licenses in 49 states and Washington DC. According to Nick Geale, ATA VP, younger truck drivers can drive semi trucks within large states such as California and Texas.
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However, they cannot cross state lines. The new program plans to acquire these younger drivers and train them further.
Safety Advocates Object To Allowing 18 Year Olds To Drive Semi Trucks
However, safety advocates are opposing the idea. They said that the program can potentially place inexperienced drivers at the wheel of some of the biggest and heaviest vehicles on the road.
Cathy Chase, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said there’s a reason for the present age limit. “It makes no sense to put one of the most dangerous driving populations behind the wheel of 80,000-pound rigs,” she said.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety managed to come up with statistics that supported the concern. A University of Michigan study reported that semi truck drivers younger than 21 posted 500% more injury crashes compared to all truck drivers overall.
As a result, the Truck Safety Coalition publicly objected to the program, saying it’s too risky to deploy teen drivers. Executive Director Zach Cahalan challenged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
He said Buttigieg should demonstrate a genuine commitment to safety. He asked him to publicly commit to terminating the program when the first fatality or serious injury occurs.
More Drivers for Semi Trucks Needed
However, the demand is proving too strong to resist. Chris Spear, ATA CEO said they needed the new drivers as early as October.
However, the agency had to wait for funding from the newly-signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act before they could start.
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Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it will implement the program strictly. They will only issue-specific age exemptions to drivers admitted to the program. The semi trucks will also need some required technologies.
Each semi truck should feature automatic emergency brakes and a 65 mph speed limiter. In addition, each rig will require forward-facing video cameras.
In addition, apprentice drivers cannot drive semi trucks with more than one trailer. Also, they cannot drive rigs carrying hazardous materials.
Watch the CBS Chicago video reporting that semi-truck driver as young as 18 are allowed to drive across state lines:
Do you agree with the new rule allowing 18 year olds to drive semi trucks across state lines? Do you think this is a good idea to help lessen the shortage of truck drivers?
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