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Senate bill to allow interstate drivers under 21 introduced; companion to House legislation

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The bill in the House of Representatives sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter to allow interstate truck drivers under the age of 21 has a companion proposal in the Senate.

Three Republican Senators—Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma—on Thursday introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Act, “ to address the driver shortage in the trucking and logistics industry, and enhance safety training and job opportunities for young truckers,” according to a statement released by the senators. The legislation describes the goal of the bill as creating an apprentice program for drivers under the age of 21.

Many states allow people in that age category to drive intrastate. Backers of the under-21 truck driver program cite their safety record in support of their push and note that a 20-year-old driver could leave northern Virginia and drive hundreds of miles to Bristol in that state, but can’t go across the border to Maryland.

It’s a companion legislation to the legislation introduced by Hunter, a California Republican, in March. That bill, with the name DRIVE-Safe Act, was referred to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A record of its progress shows nothing beyond the referral to the subcommittee.

The Senate bill is similar to the House bill in that it calls first for a 120-hour apprentice program followed by a 280-hour probationary period. Of the 120 hours, not less than 80 need to be driving a commercial motor vehicle. That would be followed by a 280-hour probationary period. During the probationary period, at least 160 hours needs to be behind the wheel. Both periods have requirements regarding what basic skills need to be demonstrated. To become an apprentice, a person needs to hold a commercial driver’s license.

The American Trucking Associations is backing the push for under-21 interstate drivers. In the release issued by Sen. Young’s office, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear was quoted as saying: “The Drive-Safe Act would open the door to millions of Americans who are seeking a career and a path to the middle class by training young men and women to safely and reliably move freight across state lines. Senators Young, Moran and Inhofe should be commended for their thoughtful leadership in creating a safe apprenticeship pathway for young people looking to go into trucking.”

The chances for success for the Senate bill would have to be considered weak at best. Midterm elections loom in less than three months, the companion bill hasn’t even had a hearing in its House subcommittee, and the number of introduced pieces of legislation in the current Congress that have become law is less than 4%. That is not unusually low; in the last Congress, it wasn’t even 2%.

Many of the bills that became law in this Congress involve routine federal business, such as the naming of post offices. Since July 1, more than a dozen pieces of legislation renaming post offices around the country have become law, including one for the late singer Marvin Gaye.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.