Age is Just a Number in the Trucking Industry
Last year the DRIVE-Safe Act, the bill that laid out training criteria by which anyone as young as 18 would be able to drive commercial trucks interstate, died in committee. However, the idea was reintroduced in a new bill last month. This led the discussion amongst trucking industry professionals on what the pros and cons of this change could mean.
Truck Driver Age Requirements
The proposed change lowers the minimum driver age for interstate hauls to 18. This is a three-year decrease from the previous requirement of 21. Some see the proposal as a risk to the industry. Others argue that 48 of the 50 states already allow CDL licenses to be acquired by those of age 18 or older for intrastate hauls. Some of these states have hundreds of miles of hauling being driven by those aged 18 – 21. Supporters argue that there is no differentiating factor when it comes to those miles being driven interstate versus intrastate. However, those that would see the proposal denied, argue that interstate travel requires more attention to detail than can be expected by young, inexperienced drivers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median age among “Driver/Sales Workers and Truck Drivers” is 46. The Bureau also states that over a million people (1,041,000) in that category are 55+. This includes 277,000 men and women in the 65-or-older demographic. Nonetheless, the trucking industry still faces extreme driver shortages despite these numbers. These industry ages do raise an important question. Does age really matter when it comes to interstate hauling? Drivers throughout the trucking industry all have to meet the same testing requirements, no matter the age. What makes someone who is 46 entering the trucking industry more trustworthy to drive than an 18-year-old doing the same?
Accessing the Next-Generation of the Trucking Industry Workforce
The goal of the proposed change in policy is to allow the trucking industry to access a critical demographic for their workforce. As is, the trucking industry is barred from fully accessing the next generation of workforce prospects. This delays the ability of the trucking industry to amend the ever-present shortage amid growing demand for industry professionals in both driving and service.
To combat concerns over interstate drivers under 21, the DRIVE-Safe Act (S. 569, H.R. 1374) proposed strengthening safety and training standards across the trucking industry. The change removes an outdated age restriction on interstate transportation. It also requires a strict apprentice program for drivers under 21. After those aged 18 – 21 qualify for a CDL, they need to successfully complete another two-step training program. Once that is complete, 18 – 21-year-olds will log 400 hours of on-duty time, plus 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver on board.
These requirements are only in place for those 18 – 21. However, some believe it should be put in place for drivers of all ages. There is currently no barrier to entry for older individuals other than the CDL requirement. Meanwhile, equal concern for health, attention to detail and qualifications should be expressed for older age brackets. Increasing the measures of which drivers are tested and requiring more frequent renewals/examinations of skills across all age brackets would enhance the trucking industry’s current safety measures. Similarly, this would negate arguments that those of certain ages are underqualified compared to others.
Age in the Trucking Industry
Whether or not age requirements change, one thing is certain; qualified drivers and service technicians of any age are desperately needed in the trucking industry. Trucks moved more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generated $719 billion in revenue in 2017, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). A severe shortage is now sending waves of limitations through the supply chain. This results in fast-rising shipping costs and delivery delays. The driver shortage is affecting everyone from distributors and wholesalers to retailers and consumers, from mom-and-pop shops to large brands like Amazon.
The lack of qualified applicants has businesses competing for the same pool of workers; a pool that is severely limited by the current age restrictions. The answer to the driver shortage may just be the expansion of eligible age ranges, particularly in those entering the workforce for the first time.
Work in the trucking industry, whether you’re 18 or 55, allows exploration of an industry that is continually growing. Advancing license requirements and testing frequency, while lowering the age to enter the market could be the answer to the shortage. This also quells worries over young drivers.
Nextran Truck Centers is available to answer any questions you may have on jobs in the trucking industry. For information on trucks and service for your current fleet, contact us at one of our 16 locations. With locations across the southeast in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, we’re here to keep you moving forward.