Highway Bill Makes Final Ruling in Teen Trucker Debateby Jana Ritter - Published: 12/02/2015
After recent debate about legalizing teen truckers, the matter has been decided. On Tuesday lawmakers announced the $305 billion highway bill, which includes a provision stating that the minimum age of truck drivers on interstate trips will be lowered from 21 to 18 years of age but only for veterans, current military members and reservists. The ruling has basically squashed the earlier proposal to lower the minimum age of all interstate truck drivers in a pilot program, which had been previously approved by the House and Senate.
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The initial proposal to lower the minimum age of truck drivers was included in earlier appropriations bills and although they were approved by the House and Senate, the issue sparked a debate between trucking companies and safety advocate groups that heated up in recent weeks before the December 4th highway funding deadline. While those in favor of lowering the minimum age argued that it would help to address the driver shortage that many trucking companies have said is hampering business, safety groups were more concerned about the public safety risk imposed by putting teen truck drivers on the road and they are overall pleased with the lawmakers decision. "By restricting the three-year teen trucker pilot program to veterans and servicemen above the age of 18, Congress greatly restricted the amount of higher-risk drivers that would be allowed to drive trucks across state lines," said Truck Safety Coalition Executive Director, John Lannen.
Those in favor of lowering the minimum age had also argued that this amendment would strike a limited pilot program that is currently authorizing drivers over 19 1/2 to enter into a graduated program to obtain a commercial driver's license. Rep. Sam Graves had voiced this argument in October and also brought up another contradiction in the current laws. "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," said Graves.
ATA President and former Kansas Gov., Bill Graves, said he is both pleased and disappointed by the provisions of Tuesday’s highway bill. “It’s good news that Congress has created an opportunity for young veterans to transition to the trucking industry. We are, however, disappointed that qualified, young, non-military CDL holders cannot have the same opportunity because we believe it is illogical to allow these younger drivers to operate in intrastate commerce in each of the 48 contiguous states, but not let them cross state borders. It is puzzling why Congress would dispense with language from both chambers that was very similar in many respects in favor of a provision that was so starkly different,” explained Graves.