In a press release issued today, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) called the controversial “truck driver shortage” a myth and argues that there is no need to lower the age limit for interstate CDL operation.

OOIDA’s statement was issued in an attempt to sway lawmakers away from supporting two bills that would lower the age limit for CDL holders and “allow teenagers to drive large trucks”. These bill are H.R. 5358, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act and H.R. 3889, the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor (WHEEL) Act.

In a letter to lawmakers Bill Shuster and Peter DeFazio, members of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, OOIDA says that the real staffing problem in the trucking industry should be blamed on high turnover, not an overall shortage of truck drivers: “Rather than proposing dangerous initiatives to get teenagers behind the wheel of 80,000 pound trucks, Congress should instead be focusing on the causes of the staggering driver turnover rate, which remains above 90% among large truckload carriers, and its impact on safety. This perilously high rate decreases safety, as drivers who leave the workforce are immediately replaced with less experienced individuals in an effort to keep labor costs as low as possible and avoid improving working conditions.

OOIDA goes on to point out the potential safety hazards posed by teen truckers:

“Younger drivers both lack overall experience and are less safe behind the wheel than their older counterparts. In fact, CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes, and CMV drivers who are 19-20 years of age are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.

Research has shown that most drivers under the age of 21 lack the general maturity, skill and judgment that is necessary in handling CMVs, while other studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex — the portion of the brain responsible for complex cognitive behavior and decision making — does not fully develop until a person is in their mid- 20s. The current federal age requirement of 21 for the interstate operation of a CMV reflects these realities.”

The last major attempt to lower the age requirement for truck drivers from 21 to 18 came in 2001. OOIDA President Todd Spencer notes, “This has been tried before and no one with any common sense thought it was a good idea. Nothing has changed since that time and no disruptions have ever taken place due to any perceived shortage of drivers. These latest efforts are just more ways to keep driver churn going and keep wages as low as possible.