Letting young drivers across state lines is the goal of pending legislation

 Source: ShutterStock

Source: ShutterStock

 Legislation introduced Wednesday morning by a Republican member of the House of Representatives would create an apprenticeship program that would allow young holders of their CDLs to drive a truck across state lines.

The  legislation was introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California). It is formally titled the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, shortened to the “DRIVE-Safe Act.”

It targets the current regulations that permit a CDL holder between the ages of 18 and 21 to earn a CDL, but that the CDL holder must do all of his driving intrastate. Once the CDL holder his their 21st birthday, they are free to drive interstate.

As David Heller, a spokesman for the Truckload Carriers of America said, his group’s office is in Alexandria, Virginia. He can see into the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. But an 18-year-old holding a CDL can drive a truck to the furthest corners of southwest Virginia, which is about 370 miles away, but could not drive into Maryland or DC.

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Under the proposal, a carrier looking to turn 18- to 21-year-olds into interstate drivers could put together an apprentice program that has two probationary periods.

The first period, according to a document supplied by Rep. Hunter’s staff, would require a 120-hour duration of which 80 hours need to be driving. It lays out certain benchmarks that must be met “to the satisfaction of the employer,” including driving on an interstate highway, “light city traffic” and night driving. (Hazmat driving is prohibited).

Following that, a 280-hour probationary period begins. That involves at least 160 hours driving.  The benchmarks that must be met during that period include backing and maneuvering “in close quarters”; weighing loads, weight distribution, and coupling and uncoupling.

For both probationary periods, an experienced driver must be in the cab at all times. Records must be kept of the apprentice’s performance. At the end of the period, the apprentice may take a truck across state lines if the company sponsoring the apprenticeship affirms that its standards have been met.

Heller said data on the safety performance of intrastate CDL drivers is thin. “There’s no data out there to determine their safety,” he said.

Heller also said there is no additional training needed now for a CDL holder who turns 21. They can immediately begin to drive across state lines.

One letter of support sent to Hunter was from the National Council of Chain Restaurants. In the letter, executive director David French wrote: "America’s long-haul trucking industry provides the vital distribution networks that serve the chain restaurant industry and so many other sectors of our economy, but they need a steady stream of new talent to enter the profession in order to function. The DRIVE-Safe Act will go a long way toward addressing our nation’s current truck driver shortage."