Recent Bill Proposes Letting 18-Year-Olds Drive 18-Wheelers Cross-Country

18-wheeler trucks on a hignway

According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the U.S. trucking industry has been grappling with a severe shortage of qualified truck drivers for decades. Recent reports indicate the shortage reached a historic high in 2021, with at least 80,000 fewer drivers than the industry needs.

All sectors of the trucking industry are currently struggling to hire enough drivers, but the long-haul trucking sector has reportedly been the most affected. Based on current projections, the ATA estimates that the trucking industry will need to hire close to one million new drivers over the next decade to keep up with demand.

In response to this alarming trend, Congress is considering bipartisan legislation that proposes lowering the minimum age for interstate commercial trucking from 21 to 18.

Recent Bill Proposes Letting 18-Year-Olds Drive 18-Wheelers Cross-Country

A new infrastructure bill introduced by lawmakers in the summer of 2021 contained a provision for a pilot program that would allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to engage in long-haul trucking with certain restrictions. The current law already allows drivers under 21 to obtain commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), but commercial drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 cannot cross state lines.

Some legislators argue that teenage drivers who are old enough to join the military and handle heavy equipment in other sectors should be allowed to transport goods outside of the states in which they are commercially licensed. The proposal suggests that early mentorship and specialized equipment can help expand the industry’s workforce while reducing potential accidents.

For example, drivers under 21 would be required to log several hundred hours of driving and mentorship before being allowed to cross state lines. Their commercial trucks would also be equipped with safety features like automatic brakes, dash cams, and devices that limit top speed to 65 mph.

The Dangers of Letting Inexperienced Drivers Become Cross-Country Truckers

Although a wider labor pool would undoubtedly benefit the trucking industry, other groups are concerned that younger, less-experienced truck drivers could introduce substantial risks to our roads. Operating an 80,000-pound vehicle requires experience and practice, and some are unconvinced that teenagers are up to the task of long hauls.

Although relatively little safety data exists specifically for younger drivers, the available figures are not particularly encouraging. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are almost three times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than those 20 and older. Inexperience is also considered a top contributing factor among motor vehicle crashes involving teen drivers.

Talk to Our Skilled Truck Accident Lawyers in Canton, GA Today

If you were injured in a Canton truck accident, it doesn’t matter whether the driver was inexperienced or an industry veteran. What matters is that you need medical care and fair compensation for your losses.

At Geiger Legal Group, LLC, our family-run law firm understands the challenges you face as a truck accident victim, and we will do everything we can to pursue the justice you deserve. To learn more about your legal options, contact us today to get started with your free initial consultation.

About the Author: Geiger Legal Group, LLC

In 1981, attorney J. Christopher Geiger began practicing law in Canton, GA, determined to provide personalized legal service to the people of Cherokee County. His son Casey followed in his footsteps, first practicing law in Colorado before joining his father in 2017 to form the Geiger Legal Group, LLC. Together, the father and son team have built a law firm that revolves around clients, not cases.