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Bill proposes letting 18-year-olds drive 18-wheelers cross-country


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Bill proposes letting 18-year-olds drive 18-wheelers cross-country

Congress has made all the noises of a legislative body trying to move mountains large and small this year. One of the hillocks attacked last year by both houses, and then again in January this year by senators from Indiana and Montana, is the ongoing shortage of over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers — the ones who drive throughout the lower 48 states. Presently, states allow 18- or 19-year-olds to get their commercial driver's licenses (CDLs), but they aren't allowed to cross their state line until they turn 21. In February, Indiana Sen. Todd Young introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, shortened to the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would lower the minimum age for interstate trucking to 18. Thanks to a healthy spate of opposition over questions of safety, the act has gone nowhere.

Now, the primary provisions of the DRIVE-Safe bill were included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that the Senate has approved, with a few changes intended to assuage the critics.  

The quick context is that the American Trucking Association says the industry was short nearly 70,000 drivers in 2019. The ATA and some distributors say getting younger drivers would help ease the shortage; an ATA economist told CNN this summer that kids who leave high school find work outside of driving, but "If we got to them earlier, we might be able to attract more drivers to the job." After all, the military already lets 18-year-old soldiers drive heavy trucks over the road. On the other side, highway safety organizations point to accident rates for commercial drivers under the age of 21, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) says the real cause of the shortage is terrible pay and working conditions.

Having been an OTR driver myself for a short time, I say the 90% turnover rate for OTR drivers isn't about the age of the drivers; working 14 hours a day to make $84 before taxes on your best day — or being stuck in a warehouse parking lot in Pennsylvania and not working and making $0 — is no way to live no matter one's age.

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Somebody has been smoking crack, this is like letting 18 year olds do surgery.

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