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American ShipperMaritimeNewsTop StoriesTrucking

Lawmaker proposes emergency port trucker bill for 18-to-20-year-old drivers

Santa 18 Act aims to cut red tape to maximize port labor force before Christmas

Newly introduced legislation would eliminate restrictions on truck drivers under 21 that prohibit them from moving cargo into and out of congested container ports.

The Supplying America Needs Truckers Aged 18 Act — or Santa 18 Act – aims to maximize the labor force during the current peak shipping season, according to U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Florida, the bill’s sponsor. The bill, introduced Thursday, currently has 19 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

“Of course, Santa will deliver Christmas gifts to our kids in time. But will you?” Mast wrote in a blog post.

“Joe Biden’s supply chain crisis is driving prices up and delivery times down just as we approach the holiday season, and sadly, reindeer aren’t going to magically fix this problem. His ‘plans’ to fix the crisis haven’t worked. Keeping the ports open 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week hasn’t helped because there aren’t enough truckers available to deliver the goods.”

Drivers under the age of 21 are prohibited from driving commercial freight across state lines. Mast asserted that picking up goods from a port is interpreted as interstate transportation even if the port is in the same state as the distribution center that the cargo is destined for or the final location.

“This precludes 18 to 20-year-olds from transporting cargo coming off of ships at overloaded ports, even if they have a commercial driver’s license and drive semi-trucks elsewhere within their state,” according to Mast. “This bill would cut that red tape to get more drivers on the road in time for holiday deliveries.”

Language in the bill would add a subsection titled “Treatment of Transportation of Goods from a Port” to U.S. regulations dealing with commercial motor vehicle operators.

“The transportation of goods from a port of entry and another place within the same state as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating outside such state or the United States by commercial motor vehicle shall not be considered interstate transportation for purposes of requirements relating to commercial driver’s licenses under this chapter,” the bill states.

As the Biden administration has been pushing ports and major retailers to expand night and weekend operations, it has also been emphasizing a need for more drivers to help tackle the problem.

Last month a federal advisory committee recommended that the administration work out a plan to give voluntary and paid truck driving jobs to active military, veterans and National Guardsmen in effort to clear cargo containers from congested ports.

But a recent FreightWaves investigation into the supply chain crisis revealed that port congestion bottlenecks and equipment shortages, particularly at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California, have resulted in many trucking companies having to lay off drivers due to inconsistent work.

Mast’s bill, if it passes in time for the holidays, would expand market opportunities for under-21 drivers faster than a provision included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that would begin the process for allowing 18-to-20-year-old drivers through an apprentice program. The infrastructure bill, which has passed the U.S. Senate, is currently being considered by the House.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

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.

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