New legislation is intended to tackle the truck driver shortage through apprentice training programs.
Called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe Act), it was introduced March 21 by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter Jr. (R-CA), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The bill would establish a two-stage apprenticeship program with sequential probationary periods in which drivers between 18 and 21 would be required to meet progressive competency requirements and demonstrate achievement of safety benchmarks.
Under current federal rules, no one under the age of 21 can drive a truck in interstate commerce, even in a state where they are able to obtain a commercial driver’s license at 18.
If enacted, the bill would allow apprentice program participants to drive if they are accompanied by an experienced commercial driver’s license holder during all driving hours while they are training, and they would only operate trucks equipped with advanced safety features and technology.
Those who successfully complete the program would then be allowed to drive commercial trucks in interstate commerce on their own, even if they are still under the age of 21.
Stating support for Hunter’s legislation even before it was introduced was the National Council of Chain Restaurants.
“Chain restaurants and their thousands of small business franchisees rely on a stable system of distribution for their food supply chains,” explained Executive Director David French.
“America’s long-haul trucking industry provides the vital distribution networks that serve the chain restaurant industry and so many other sectors of our economy, but they need a steady stream of new talent to enter the profession in order to function,” he said. “The DRIVE-Safe Act will go a long way toward addressing our nation’s current truck driver shortage.”