How the DRIVE-Safe Act reverses the truck driver shortage

Can the DRIVE-Safe Act reverse the truck driver shortage?

Our industry has been falling behind in hiring and retaining truck drivers for years, creating an ongoing truck driver shortage. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that 60,800 driving jobs went unfilled in 2018.

The problems created by the dearth of incoming drivers have just been amplified since then, as the pandemic demand surged, older drivers retired, transportation capacity dwindled, and state departments of motor vehicles and truck driver training schools were temporarily closed.

Meanwhile, regulations have further restricted truck drivers: Until recently, 49 states and the District of Columbia allowed drivers under 21 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate in intrastate commerce only. But these young drivers have been prohibited by federal law from driving a truck across state lines until they turn 21.

The backbone of the DRIVE-Safe Act

Legislators sought to address all these problems in crafting the DRIVE-Safe Act.

Under the new act, a rigorous program creates a path for young drivers to become full-fledged members of the interstate trucking community. The legislation also lowers the entry age for truck drivers from 21 to 18 to receive their commercial driver’s license (CDL).

The new bill comes with several key features that will help the country reduce the truck driver shortage by enabling qualified candidates to hit the roads:

Focus on safety and apprenticeships

The DRIVE-Safe Act creates an apprenticeship process with enhanced safety and training standards for newly qualified and current drivers. Once a driver qualifies for their CDL, they begin their training program. Rigorous program performance benchmarks require that each driver complete a minimum of 400 on-duty hours and 240 driving-time hours in the cab with an experienced driver. Further, each driver will train on vehicles equipped with safety technology like active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture, and a speed governor of 65 miles per hour or below.

Generous incentives

The DRIVE-Safe Act will allow younger American truck drivers to enter an industry with a median salary of $54,585 nationally, plus health and retirement benefits.

Bipartisan sponsorship

Both House and Senate lawmakers have ensured the bill focuses on enhanced safety training for emerging members of this growing workforce. The legislation earned the support of more than one-third of the House and Senate in the 116th Congress.

Broad industry and trade association support

The act has coalition support from more than 120 companies and trade associations, including International Foodservice Distributors (IFDA) and the ATA.

This new act is a step in the right direction as we seek to funnel more qualified drivers into the ground transportation system to better support shippers and the economy.

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