The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said it strongly opposes congressional efforts to lower the minimum age requirement for truckers engaged in interstate commerce.
In late February, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate and House reintroduced the DRIVE-Safe Act, giving drivers under the age of 21 a faster path to interstate trucking.
In a letter to Congress, OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said the legislation "presents obvious safety concerns for the new truck drivers it hopes to attract, as well as the traveling public.”
He said younger drivers "generally lack the maturity and experience to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) at the safest levels. Research consistently concludes that CMV drivers under the age of 21 are more likely to be involved in crashes.”
When the legislation was introduced, Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, said the bipartisan support shows "how real a threat the driver shortage presents to our nation’s economic security over the long-term.
However, OOIDA calls the driver shortage a myth. Spencer said he blames the largest motor carriers and "trade associations in DC that represent them” for pursuing the cheapest labor supply possible.
Allowing younger interstate drivers means these fleets can “take advantage of a new pool of drivers – teenagers, who would be subjected to poor working conditions, predatory lease-to-own schemes and woefully inadequate compensation,” Spencer said.
Spencer did give one bit of praise for the legislation. While it "is unlikely to reduce driver turnover or improve safety, we appreciate the DRIVE-Safe Act’s approach to robust new entrant training,” he wrote.
The DRIVE-Safe Act would allow certified CDL holders to participate in an apprenticeship program that includes at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab.
"Ensuring properly trained drivers are entering the workforce is paramount to improving highway safety and reducing crashes,” he wrote.
Separately, Jeremy Reymer, founder and CEO of DriverReach, expressed support for the measure, but acknowledged there is opposition.
"While there may be dissenters, what’s important is having an open dialogue with a foundation of education in order to overcome special interest groups. What truly matters is creating safer and younger drivers. We just need to cooperate to get there,” he said.