DRIVE-Safe Act Aims to Lower OTR Age Requirements

Posted by Chris Lanciotti

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Interstate driving age requirements could soon be changing if the recently introduced Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe Act) passes into effect.

Presented to the House of Representatives on March 21st, 2018, the bill would allow 18-21 year old drivers with their Class-A license to cross state lines in a commercial motor vehicle.

Facing a shortage of upwards of 50,000 drivers and losing most drivers to retirement, the industry is in search of solutions to help the issue at hand. Currently, CDL holders between the ages of 18-21 are only to able to drive within the state that their license is valid.

This makes it challenging for those wanting to get into truck driving, as many carriers require drivers to have OTR experience to be eligible to drive.

Who It Would Affect

According to the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2017, the 18-20 year old segment has the highest unemployment rate of any age group in the American workforce. Those who don’t continue their education or enter the military after high school are likely to start careers in retail, construction, or restaurant industry. By the time they’re eligible to drive interstate, they’ve been working in a trade for years.

Lowering age regulations could cause a sizable increase in the amount of potential CDL holders, resulting in adding to the pool of qualified drivers that companies can hire for interstate driving jobs, whether OTR, dedicated, or regional routes.

Why the DRIVE-Safe Act Matters

The potential change in interstate driving age could help widen the pool that the industry has to find new drivers to replace those leaving the industry. Currently, we’re seeing a shortage of around 50,000 drivers, and the issue is only expected to grow in the coming years if nothing significant is done to alleviate it.

The recent Transport Topics article puts the current restriction on younger CDL holders into perspective: a driver could haul freight many hours across their state of residence, but not travel 30 minutes into another state if a more local or dedicated route required it.

From the same study mentioned above, the ATA estimates the median age of OTR drivers is 49 and that nearly 50% of the reason the industry is losing drivers is due to retirement. So the industry is challenged with finding new, long-lasting drivers that are willing to drive over the road while being away from home for a period of time (ATA 2017).

How It Will Work

The proposed bill to reduce the required interstate driving age would require Class-A CDL holders between the ages of 18-21 years old to log 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver trainer after earning their CDL.

Once completed, those drivers would then be able to travel over the road throughout the country.

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