This week, a major newsmagazine looked at how teenagers are being trained to drive big rigs amid a legislative push to allow drivers under 21 years of age to operate interstate.
On October 3, Inside Edition shared a new report entitled “Teens Are Being Trained to Drive 18-Wheelers Amid Truck Driver Shortage.” The report suggests that high school students are stepping up to fill seats as trucking companies struggle to find drivers.
The report follows 16 and 17 year olds attending a truck driver training course at Patterson High School in California. Patterson High School is one of the only high schools in the country to offer truck driver training programs to teens.
During the year-long course, students spend 180 hours training in a combination of classroom instruction, demonstrations, hands-on exercises, and simulator experience. Following completion of the course, students should be prepared to take the written CDL exam.
While the teens featured in the report will have to wait a few years before they are legally allowed to operate across state lines under current federal law, there is a push to lower the age for operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce from 21 to 18.
In March 2021, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act was reintroduced by U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jon Teste. A companion bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Trey Hollingsworth.
A version of the DRIVE-Safe Act has been included as a provision in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act bill making its way through Congress.
The DRIVE-Safe Act would work by establishing an apprenticeship training program for under-21-CDL holders. Lawmakers promise that this training program would “ensure these drivers are trained beyond current standards while instituting rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks.”
As part of the apprenticeship program, young drivers would be required to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab with them.
All trucks used in the apprenticeship program must be equipped with safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, a video event capture system, and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or below.
The DRIVE-Safe Act was previously introduced in February 2019. Nearly identical legislation was also introduced in August 2018.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports the bill and for years has called for changes to the law to allow younger truck drivers to operate interstate.
The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) has long opposed the idea of teen truckers for safety reasons and because they say that there is no truck driver shortage.