House On Board With Teen Truck Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 11/06/2015
This week House Republicans rejected an amendment to the Highway bill that would prevent teenagers from driving commercial trucks and argued that lowering the minimum for Interstate trips from age 21 to 18 is a necessary and modest effort to address a driver shortage that is affecting cargo movement in the U.S. The proposal to lower the minimum age of truck drivers was originally included in an earlier transportation funding bill approved by the Senate in July. A later amendment proposed to eliminate the language lowering the minimum truck driver age from the road funding legislation, but on Wednesday the Chamber rejected that amendment on a vote of 181-248.
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Many trucking companies have been pushing for the minimum age of interstate drivers to be lowered, saying that a major reason for the driver shortage is because older workers are retiring at a faster rate than younger replacements are entering the profession. However, advocates of the amendment have been arguing that lowering the minimum Interstate driving age is something that the Department of Transportation should be studying a lot closer. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who wrote the amendment, says that Interstate highways are already dangerous enough and, "Given the higher accidents and fatality rates of younger drivers, it makes no make sense to make this change without looking at all of the data."
But Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) argues that the proposed amendment would also mean eliminating a limited pilot program that is currently authorizing drivers over 19 1/2 to enter into a graduated program obtain a commercial driver's license. "What's interesting about the way present law is written is that a driver that's over the age that's being discussed here can drive all the way across the state of Missouri, for instance, but they can't drive 10 miles in the city of Kansas City because it's across state lines. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense and it actually hampers a whole lot of business out there," Graves said. "What we're trying to do with this amendment is just allow those drivers to cross state lines," he added.
Still, Democrats argued that although many states already allow teenage truck drivers to get behind the wheel of big rigs, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a major safety risk to all. "Ask any parent, they know young drivers do not always listen, even when an experience is in the front seat," said Lewis.