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Groups petition lawmakers to oppose bills that would allow younger CMV drivers

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Grain Valley, MO — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and 12 other organizations have sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to oppose two House bills that would allow drivers younger than 21 to operate interstate commercial motor vehicles.

In the letter, dated April 13, the organizations claim that the impetus for those bills – a driver shortage – does not exist.

One bill, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy, or DRIVE-Safe Act (HR 5358), would establish an apprenticeship program for anyone younger than 21 who has a commercial driver’s license. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), would require a driver 21 or older to accompany the apprentice for two probationary periods totaling 400 hours, including 240-plus hours of operating a CMV.

The organizations contend that the minimum training standards are “woefully inadequate,” adding that they have “serious concerns” about the potential for drivers as young as 21 to serve as mentors.

The second bill, the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor Act, or WHEEL Act (HR 3889), would alter eligibility requirements for the federal government’s commercial driver pilot program. According to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notice published in the Federal Register in August 2016, that program is open only to workers 18 to 21 years old who are military/former military personnel, received specified heavy-vehicle driver training in the armed forces and are sponsored by a participating motor carrier.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), would change those requirements to 18- to 21-year-olds who have a valid CDL; a driving record free of citations, violations or other safety infractions; and who have completed a training program or similar qualification.

“Younger drivers both lack overall experience and are less safe behind the wheel than their older counterparts,” the letter states, adding that the group of organizations has “significant concerns about corporate proponents of these proposals using the guise of a national driver shortage to use less expensive and less experienced labor.”

The letter also points out that a similar attempt to lower the federal CDL age requirement in 2001, via a petition to FMCSA, was denied by the agency. The organizations instead are asking lawmakers to focus on curbing driver turnover, which they state “remains above 90 [percent] among large truckload carriers.”

At press time, both bills were with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee.

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