Biden Administration Rolling Out Teenage Truckers To Ease Supply Chain Woes

The Biden administration is set to launch a vocational training program to allow 18-year-olds to take on long-term truck driver jobs, despite a steady increase in fatal truck accidents over the years.

The trucking industry has long called for Congress to lower the legal driving age for interstate trucks from 21 to 18, and lawmakers introduced the apprenticeship program as part of a bipartisan infrastructure bill last year.

Shipping companies have been complaining for years about not being able to find enough drivers, although economists have pointed out that the supposed shortage is caused by low wages and tough working conditions. Expanding the employment pool to include younger drivers will make it easier for companies to avoid paying higher wages.

Members of Congress took complaints of a “lack of drivers” at face value, and the White House publicly embraced the prospect of lowering labor costs leading to lower prices for consumer goods.

“The reason this is included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is that we need to address the driver shortage that, of course, affects freight transportation and then the cost of merchandise on the shelves,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. this week.

The administration announced a safe driver training program this week as one of several parts of an infrastructure bill set to go into effect, including $27 billion to repair bridges across the country. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it will create a website sometime in the “near future” with information about an apprenticeship program for younger drivers.

However, Zach Kahlan says the administration’s use of the word “secure” in the program’s name is offensive.

“I realized that the administration should abide by the law passed by Congress and launch this apprenticeship program, but there is no reason to call it safe,” said Cahalan, director of the Truck Safety Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based lobby group. . “This is putting lipstick on a pig. They light up the American people with gas.”

Like The Congressional Research Service has notedStudies consistently show that young commercial drivers, like younger drivers in general, are more likely to be involved in accidents than their older counterparts. Fatal truck and bus accidents increased 47% between 2009 and 2019, according to Latest FMCSA numbers.

The trucking industry maintains that lower interstate age requirements will not make highways any less safe. The bottom line is that 18-year-olds are already allowed to get commercial driver’s licenses and drive large trucks in almost every state — they’re not allowed to cross state lines until they’re 21.

“In practical terms, that means a 20-year-old can drive the excavator thousands of miles across a large state like Texas or California, but she can’t pick up or drop a load a mile across the border in a neighboring state,” said Jeremy Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for the Transportation Federation. Trucking America, in an email.

Kirkpatrick said the pilot program requires 400 hours of additional training accompanied by an experienced driver, and requires the trucks to be equipped with advanced safety features like active braking and video cameras.

The argument that the program will only allow 18-year-old experienced drivers to finally cross state lines obscures how that actually changes the job, said Steve Vesely, a University of Pennsylvania trucking economist. Driving within state lines generally means going home every night; Interstate driving can mean long trips away from home, with more chances of burnout.

“These drivers will drive irregular hours for weeks, sometimes months at a time,” Vesely said. “This is a completely different kind of business.”

Trucking companies and merchandise distributors unanimously supported the program, while safety advocates opposed it, calling it an industrial giveaway that threatens safety.

“The reason for the shortage of truck drivers is that it’s a poor job,” said Joan Claybrook, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and former director of the public good government group Public Citizen. “These truck drivers quit because they are forced to drive — and DOT rules allow them to drive — for 77 hours in seven days. This is not a life.


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