Under current federal law, truck drivers who are 18, 19, and 20 years old cannot drive across state lines, but a highway bill currently making its way through the U.S. Senate may change that.
Truck drivers are not allowed to cross state lines unless they are at least 21 years of age, but 18 to 20-year-old drivers are already lawfully allowed to drive tractor-trailers within just about every U.S. state. The problem is that trucking companies are having a difficult time finding drivers, and are not willing to wait for their younger drivers to reach 21 before they are no longer bound to the in-state restrictions.
This bill is already causing major controversy between those who support the bill and those who see it as a dangerous proposition. According to Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, “drivers between the ages of 18 to 20 have four to six times higher rates of fatal crashes… this is a terrible idea, and it will result in more crashes, more deaths, and more injuries.”
Some truck companies are wary of this bill as well. Between traffic delays and the pressure of meeting deadlines, truck drivers need to be able to stay calm under pressure and make sound decisions. They recognize that trucking is a stressful job, and feel that a less experienced teen driver might compromise the safety of themselves and others because they are more likely to have accidents. With the inherent safety risks that driving large trucks already presents, critics argue that compounding these dangers with a lack of experience is a recipe for disaster.
Those who support the bill do not agree with this logic. Since 18 to 20-year-old drivers are already allowed to drive for long stretches in-state, sometimes up to hundreds of miles, it doesn’t make sense that they would be forbidden to drive a far shorter distance into a neighboring state.
As a compromise, the Senate version of the highway bill would provide for a six-year pilot program allowing drivers to drive up to 100 miles into neighboring states. Congress will look into the issue again after it returns from the summer recess.
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