The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has come out against the most recent proposals to lower the age requirement for obtaining an interstate commercial drivers license.
The OOIDA was joined by others in sending a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The OOIDA has been opposing similar legislation to lower interstate commercial driver ages for much of this century.
“As the nation’s leading organizations and associations representing public health, consumers, safety and American truckers, we are certain these efforts would not only be detrimental to road safety, but also to those seeking to enter the trucking industry as professional drivers,” read the opening of the letter.
The groups are opposed to two specific legislative proposals which would allow teenagers to drive large trucks. The bills are H.R. 5358, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act and H.R. 3889, the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor (WHEEL) Act.
Among other statistics and concerns, the letter points out that intrastate CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes, and CMV drivers who are 19-20 years of age are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.
“We think it’s irresponsible to put young drivers behind the wheel of a truck in order to avoid addressing the real problems of high turnover,” said Todd Spencer, acting president of OOIDA. “The focus should instead be on fixing the staggering turnover rate with better pay and working conditions.”
The letter brings up a previous failed attempt to lower the age to 18 in the year 2001.
“This has been tried before and no one with any common sense thought it was a good idea,” said Spencer. “Nothing has changed since that time and no disruptions have ever taken place due to any perceived shortage of drivers. These latest efforts are just more ways to keep driver churn going and keep wages as low as possible.”
The DRIVE-Safe Act was introduced by Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN).
“Unfortunately, we see many young Americans faced with the choice of either taking on thousands of dollars in college debt or entering into a job market with grim prospects for untrained workers,” said Hunter. The legislation “is a common-sense approach that creates job opportunities for younger workers and provides a vital resource to America’s trucking industry that is critical in supporting our growing domestic economy.”
“We feel pretty good we can build a lot of support for the legislation in a pretty quick fashion – and hopefully in a bipartisan way,” said Allen.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the only national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Mo. area.