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Bill to expand driving workforce gaining steam

We have all undoubtedly heard the reports that trucking is currently facing a massive shortage of qualified professional truck drivers. Estimates place the current shortage around 60,800 drivers, growing to 160,000 by 2028. The media loves to report about this and present the news as if it is a surprise to the general public. While the average citizen may temporarily be blissfully unaware of the lack of qualified truck drivers, as the shortage persists and affects their ability to walk into a store and see fully stocked shelves, it is likely that the public outrage will be swift.

That is why TCA has joined with many other stakeholders to support the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, also known as the DRIVE-Safe Act. This piece of legislation would allow 18-20-year-olds who hold a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) to cross state lines in interstate commerce, which is currently prohibited. To ensure the highest safety standards are met, the bill would require participants to complete a rigorous two-step apprenticeship program, including at least 400 hours of additional training – more than what is required for any other CDL holder in the nation. Furthermore, participants would only be allowed to drive trucks outfitted with the latest safety technologies proven to decrease accidents, including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less, and automatic or automatic manual transmissions.

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN-9), currently has 40 Republican and 4 Democratic cosponsors. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), is currently supported by 9 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and 1 Independent. The legislation will likely end up attached to either a larger infrastructure package or the must-pass surface transportation reauthorization bill, or both.

Recently, TCA signed onto a letter of support for this bill, noting that the DRIVE-Safe Act 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. As the U.S. recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing 18-20-year-old drivers to participate in our workforce will bolster and support our nation’s supply chain, which President Biden has identified as a priority for the country moving forward. TCA will continue informing lawmakers of the DRIVE-Safe Act’s importance as we work to ensure the pipeline of professional drivers is something our industry can count on for decades to come.