Within the United States, there are too few qualified truck drivers to meet inland shipping demands. Many people are looking for solutions to the trucker shortage, which has been described as a "rolling crisis" by Fortune. There are currently 35,000 to 40,000 trucking jobs open and no truckers to fill them.
One proposed solution was recently reported on by Fox Business. However, safety advocates are referring to the new legislation introduced to help with the trucker shortage as a "catastrophe waiting to happen." Any efforts to fix the problem caused by too few truckers need to focus not only on getting more people into the industry, but on getting qualified people into the business. Simply opening the door to more drivers without ensuring they have the training to operate trucks safely could significantly increase the risk of trucking accidents.
New Proposal Could Significantly Increase the Risk of Trucking Accidents
The proposal causing concern among safety advocates was put forth in a bill by Republican lawmakers, who are aiming to pass a change the trucking industry has requested. The proposal would allow states to form compacts, and within those compacts to give states authority to allow people age 18 and older to drive large commercial trucks across state lines.
Currently, federal laws set a higher minimum age for commercial driver's license holders to be permitted to drive a truck across state borders. A trucker can only go across the state lines under the current rules if he is 21 or older. This prevents young teenagers from getting hired by trucking companies and routinely driving trucks across highways throughout the United States, even when they have minimal driving experience.
The risks presented by inexperienced teen drivers are recognized even when these teens drive passenger vehicles. Teens are the demographic group most likely to be involved in collisions. Graduated licensing programs limit their driving privileges when they first obtain their license, so they can slowly become more experienced and obtain more opportunities to be behind the wheel. Now, lawmakers want to give teens with only two or three years driving experience (maximum) the ability to get a CDL and drive a truck across state lines.
The inexperience of teen drivers is only one of many concerns when it comes to allowing 18-year-olds to operate big rigs on the nation's interstate highways. Another problem is teenagers are generally not as responsible as adults because they have not fully developed cognitively. University of Rochester Medical Center research has showed physical differences between the brain of a teen and an adult, and has revealed the portion of brain that affects rational thought does not fully develop until age 25.
It is a dangerous idea to give an 18-year-old with limited driving experience and with a brain not yet fully developed the ability to drive a large tractor trailer from state to state.