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April 15, 2021 4:00 PM, EDT

Supply Chain Industry Calls on Congress to Pass DRIVE-Safe Act

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A group of supply chain industry representatives, including trucking leaders, sent a letter to members of Congress on April 14 urging them to pass legislation that would allow truckers under age 21 to drive across state lines.

The bill, called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy, or DRIVE-Safe Act, is designed to enhance safety training and remedy the truck driver shortage by giving younger people more opportunities in the industry. Current federal law does not allow people between 18 and 20 years old who possess a commercial driver license to drive Class 8 trucks across state lines.

The legislation proposes a two-step apprenticeship program for prospective young drivers to complete once they obtain a CDL. The legislation, reintroduced by a group of senators in March, would require these drivers to log 400 hours of additional training.

DRIVE Safe Act Coalition Su... by Transport Topics

All qualified drivers who participate in the apprenticeship program would be allowed to only drive trucks equipped with the latest safety technology, including braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing cameras and speed limiter set at 65 mph or slower.

“The DRIVE-Safe Act will help our nation’s freight continue to move while preserving and enhancing the safety of our highway system,” the letter states. “It will help fill desperately needed jobs and provide younger Americans with the opportunity to enter a profession with a median salary of $54,585, plus health and retirement benefits. It will bolster and support our nation’s supply chain, which is an issue of heightened urgency as our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Supply chain leaders indicated the industry is in serious need of more truck drivers, especially as freight demand is projected to increase as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter states the trucking industry needs an additional 60,800 truckers immediately, a shortfall that is expected to grow to 160,000 drivers by 2028.

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Another factor is the aging driver population. When anticipated driver retirement numbers are considered in tandem with the expected growth in capacity, the industry will need to hire about 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade.

The driver shortage was exacerbated by the pandemic, which caused state departments of motor vehicles to temporarily close or limit services. As a result, supply chain companies face higher transportation costs, which ultimately lead to increased prices for consumers.

The letter urges congressional leaders to include the DRIVE-Safe Act in a comprehensive infrastructure package or a surface transportation reauthorization bill.

American Trucking Associations, Natso (which represents truck stop operators), the National Tank Truck Carriers and the Truckload Carriers Association were among the 117 organizations that backed the letter.

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