The trucking industry is facing an oncoming driver crisis. The ATA and other trucking organizations estimate that there may be a shortage of as many as 50,000 drivers in 2019. Estimates project that there will be an 890,000 driver deficit by year 2029. While the decision remains a federal issue, some states are weighing in, and trying to push for change. On February 21, Colorado Governor, Jared Polis, signed legislation affirming the state’s desire to change federal commercial motor vehicle law to permit drivers aged 18-21 years old to travel interstate.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration drivers ages 18-21 may not operate a commercial motor vehicle across state lines – even for short runs. This means that these younger drivers are allowed to make 12-15 hour hauls in states like California or Florida, but would not be permitted to make short runs from Washington D.C. to nearby cities like Alexandria or Baltimore.
The new legislation updates Colorado statute 42-2-404 and removes wording prohibiting drivers under 21 years old that possess a CDL from driving interstate.
Colorado State Senate Bill 19-018 is an attempt by the state of Colorado to signify to the USDOT and Congress their support of the DRIVE-Safe act. The DRIVE-Safe act is a 2018 bill, sponsored by Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) with others, that would direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue legislation allowing CDL drivers under aged 21 to operate interstate. It is a two-step program of apprenticeship and logged hours completed. ATA President, Chris Spear, states the act is “a common-sense proposal that will open enormous opportunities for the 18- to 21-year-old population.” The act was presented to both houses of Congress in 2018 but has yet to be heard by general assembly.
Both Colorado State Senate Bill 19-018 and the Drive Safe Act have garnered significant support from government officials and trucking industry leaders. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), a DRIVE-Safe cosponsor, says that the DRIVE-Safe Act would, “help move the supply-chain nationwide in a more expeditious manner,” and Colorado State Senator Ray Scott hope’s Colorado’s efforts would “get other states to get on the bandwagon and get this done.”
Bill proponents state that allowing younger drivers to driver interstate could not only benefit the struggling trucking industry, but also help others like communities on the borders of states or US military veterans looking for work.
These bills are not met without controversy. Current driver crash statistics from AAA and others state that the 18-20 year old age group (and younger) remains the most liable group for engaging in a collision. Many feel that drivers in this age group are not prepared to handle the CMV equipment and that maintaining the current standard is correct.
Both groups are soon to have an answer on what to do with younger drivers. In 2015, a law was passed, called the FAST Act – a pilot program to study younger drivers’ interstate driving abilities. The act begins in early 2019 and is focusing study on approximately 200 armed forces member or former members between ages 18-20. The study will run for about a year for initial findings and is expected to issue a final report by 2023.
Colorado State Senator Scott recognizes that Colorado Senate Bill 19-018 will not take effect until federal law is changed. Nonetheless, he and other politicians hope that their actions in Colorado will inspire other states to make similar resolutions in an effort to stave off the coming driver shortage crisis.