NGFA and 117 other stakeholder groups this week urged lawmakers to help alleviate a nationwide shortage of commercial truck drivers by providing new opportunities for younger drivers.
“Seventy percent of the nation’s freight is carried by commercial trucks, and while demand is projected to increase over the next decade, the threat posed by the driver shortage stands to disrupt the continuity of the supply chain,” stated an April 14 letter to leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This is especially problematic as the nation and our economy recover from the monumental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The DRIVE-Safe Act, bipartisan legislation that garnered support from more than one third of the House and Senate in the 116th Congress, would address the nation’s growing truck driver shortage by promoting opportunity and enhanced safety training for emerging members of the transportation workforce.
Although 49 states and the District of Columbia currently allow individuals under the age of 21 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate in intrastate commerce, these same individuals are prohibited from driving a truck across state lines until they turn 21, the groups noted.
The letter emphasized that the DRIVE-Safe Act would help satisfy a current shortage of 60,800 truck drivers across the nation. This legislation allows younger drivers to enter the industry under monitored regulation and safety standards. If nothing is done to support this change, then the driver shortage is estimated to grow by more than 160,000 by 2028, the letter stated.
The groups identified key principles of the DRIVE-Safe Act, which will help the nation’s freight continue to move while preserving the safety of the highway system. A two-step apprenticeship program requires candidates to complete 400 hours of additional training. And the bill requires increased truck safety technology, 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 letter also emphasized how the additional employment will provide younger individuals with a profession that earns an average of more than $54,500 with full benefits. NGFA and the other agricultural groups urged lawmakers to include the DRIVE-Safe Act in upcoming infrastructure legislation and/or a surface transportation reauthorization bill.