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Drugs, younger drivers on trucking research group’s agenda

ATRI also will examine effects of deploying electric trucks

ATRI research to focus on safety effects of state drug laws. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The nation’s top trucking research group plans to update previous studies on the effects of legalized marijuana and other drugs on truck safety along with integrating 18- to 20-year-old drivers into the industry.

Those initiatives were among the top research priorities approved by the American Transportation Research Institute for 2021, ATRI announced Tuesday. ATRI’s research priorities in 2020 included nonnuclear verdicts, safety metrics, owner-operators and vehicle-miles-traveled user fees.

“As more states move to decriminalize marijuana and other drugs, this study would update ATRI’s 2019 report by examining roadway safety and workforce impacts in those states changing their controlled substance laws,” ATRI stated.

As a result of the 2019 report, ATRI recommended increasing the amount of data collected on the frequency and impacts of marijuana-impaired driving; educating the public on the risks of impaired driving; better equipping law enforcement and the court system to prosecute impaired drivers; and using tax revenue generated from marijuana sales to fund those activities.

ATRI will also look at how to best integrate 18- to 20-year-old drivers into the trucking industry. “This research will utilize a case-study approach to document best practices for recruiting, training and retaining younger individuals into trucking careers,” the group stated. In 2019, ATRI prioritized research quantifying the safety performance of drivers ages 18 to 20 who are legally allowed to drive in intrastate operations versus experienced interstate commercial drivers.

ATRI’s research on drivers currently too young to obtain a commercial interstate driver’s license follows mounting pressure from lawmakers and the industry to make interstate driving legal for those ages 18 to 20.

Two research initiatives on the effects of electric truck deployment is also among ATRI’s 2021 priorities given the “heightened awareness” on electrifying the industry, the group stated.

“Charging Infrastructure Considerations for Electric Trucks” will examine power demand scenarios and availability of grid connectivity and vehicle charging requirements. “This research will be a trucking industry-focused assessment that identifies the electrical infrastructure issues associated with deploying electric trucks,” according to ATRI.

“Understanding the Environmental Impacts of Zero Emission Trucks” will compare environmental impacts of the full lifecycle of electric versus diesel Class 8 trucks, including manufacturing, operations and disposal.

ATRI also plans to quantify the effects of driver-facing cameras on fleets and drivers, focusing on safety, litigation, and workforce impacts.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Richard Crawford

    I’m not in favor of any type of drug use, anyone that I know that is on drugs started with marijuana and it just keeps getting worse. As far as younger drivers, it would depend on the individual. I know some 18 year old young men that are much more mature than some 30 year old people I’ve come in contact with. If they are trained right, observe the rules there is a need for drivers that this might help.

  2. Tcs53

    You need a study to determine if 18-20 year olds are mature enough to drive a commercial vehicle interstate ? You’re worried about legal weed ? You’re morons ! People that age can’t even legally buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes but they’re going to give them the keys to drive a 80,000# vehicle down the road. You’re nuts, there’s no driver shortage. All these companies want to do is get the young people that will work cheap.

  3. Witt

    A study to see if “dope heads ” can drive electric trucks, this all ploy to give big industry a break from HOS rules.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.