If you are a citizen of 49 different states or the District of Columbia (New York being the sole exception), you can drive with a CDL within state borders at various ages between 18 and 21. Once a truck driver crosses state borders, however, it becomes a federal issue and the CDL holder must be at least 21. This leads to some obvious absurdities: a Texas driver gets over two hundred times the driving space as one from Rhode Island.
With a “trucker shortage” that is driving the cost of shipping goods to high levels, Congress has been debating the DRIVE-Safe Act on and off since 2018. It would allow drivers under 21 to cross state lines after jumping through some hoops. Companies that have their goods delivered are huge fans, but drivers themselves appear to be hesitant to share the road with the less experienced.
Were the DRIVE-Safe Act to become law, it would not automatically grant younger drivers the right to interstate travel. To cross state lines, a young driver must:
- Complete 400 hours of additional training, with at least 240 of those hours behind the wheel.
- Drive as a team member with another, more experienced driver.
- Use a truck fitted with the latest and greatest safety technology, included but not limited to, a 65 MPH speed limiter.
While these regulations would prevent a truck driver from going off on his own, they would allow more urgent freight to be delivered across the country faster through the power of team driving.
Support of Entities
117 different entities co-signed their approval on a letter sent to Congress on April 14th, 2021, urging them to vote yea on the bill. The organizations primarily either represent people who need goods shipped, or do the shipping. Examples include:
- American Frozen Food Institute
- Cotton Growers Warehouse Association
- Pet Industry Distributors Association
- Truck Renting and Leasing Association
- Wisconsin Beverage Association
OverDrive Online polled its readership as to if it would support having CDL holders under age 21 drive across state lines:
- 63% said no.
- 17% said maybe, with limitations and appropriate training.
- 15% said yes.
- 5% said “other” or not sure.
We have talked about how different factors in Overdrive’s polling process can skew the numbers away from the actual numbers, but it is probably fair enough to say that at least 50% of drivers are not fully on board with the idea.
Supporters of the DRIVE-Safe Act on social media cite the absurdity of being able to go much further in one direction than the other just because of a state line, while the opposition cites the connection between accident chances and the age of the driver.
In regards to the social media comments, both sides have valid arguments to support their points. If drivers between ages 18 and 20 have the highest risk of accident per driven mile, allowing them to travel across one state line 45 miles away would actually be less risky than crossing the entirety of Texas, but the chances increase when the young driver travels through multiple states, such as going from Kentucky to Oregon.
It seems both sides have trouble with long-distance driving. Perhaps a suitable compromise that could work is allowing truck drivers under the age of 21 to travel in a 500 mile radius either from the state capitol or the center of the state. Such a rule would allow truck drivers, no matter which state they are from, to cross certain state borders legally, but would only allow them on shorter trips than an older truck could travel.