Survey: 84% of carriers support lower minimum age for truck drivers

Even as wages rise for long-haul truck drivers, carriers still can’t fill the seats. More and more, trucking companies both large and small would like to be able to put properly trained and supervised younger drivers behind the wheel, according to a recent industry survey.

In the latest Business Expectations Survey by Transport Capitol Partners, 84 percent of carriers said they’d support allowing people younger than 21 to get their CDLs and drive in interstate commerce. Support is similar between large and small carriers, despite smaller carriers typically hiring fewer inexperienced drivers, the report notes.

But even with 4 in 5 respondents supporting the hire of younger drivers, the number of carriers actually hiring inexperienced drivers today is only 1 in 3. Even with the shortage of qualified drivers, there has yet to be a major shift to hiring entry-level drivers, according to the TCP analysis.

“It is likely that the shift to hiring more inexperienced drivers will continue, albeit slowly – 64 percent of carriers surveyed indicated they would be interested in hiring less experienced drivers,” said TCP Partner and survey leader Richard Mikes. “Larger companies are twice as likely to hire inexperienced drivers as smaller companies, perhaps because they have the staff and resources to invest in training facilities and co-drivers.” 
Indeed, among the options for addressing the driver shortage, the American Trucking Assns. will take the case for younger CDL holders to the new Congress, part of a trucking industry package ATA hopes to see included in the next highway bill.

ATA Senior Vice President of Policy and Regulatory Affairs Dave Osiecki, who manages the association’s legislative efforts on Capitol Hill, told American Trucker that he envisions “a conditional lowering of the 21-year-old age requirement, but attaching some additional provisions: training, use of technology, monitoring and so forth.”

Still, that’s well down the road. In the meantime, trucking companies continue to compete for good drivers.

More than 90 percent of carriers reported driver wage increase expectations, according to the TCP survey. More than one-third said they expect wage increases to be in the range of 6 to 10 percent – double what was reported six months ago.

"Carriers are seeing potential applicants go to other sectors, like construction, where there is more predictable home time and where extra pay is not limited by federal hours-of-service regulations,” said TCP Partner Steven Dutro. “The end result is that revenue from rate increases will go into purchasing new equipment, driver wages, rising maintenance costs, and regulatory costs – and not as much into the carrier’s pockets in 2015.”

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