Driving heavy-duty trucks has long been a career to emphasize individual maturity. Anyone looking to become a commercial driver must be over 21 years of age in order to begin studying and applying for their CDL. Now, two bills before the House of Representatives are proposing that lowering the CDL age is a productive way to produce the next generation of truckers. Understandably, there’s a considerable amount of pushback and we’ll explore that today…
In an industry so heavily reliant on safety compliances and accident avoidance, bringing younger drivers into trucking appears somewhat problematic. At the same time, there is a real desire for many young people to take a career path outside of expensive 4-year colleges — trucking provides one such opportunity. Still, lowering the CDL age is a risk that many are weighing from their individual viewpoints. There are certainly divided perspectives on this issue, but we’ll start with some of the most prominent opposition:
OOIDA and Stakeholders in Opposition
Recently, the Owner Operator’s Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) along with other stakeholder groups sent a signed letter to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure stating their position. As an organization that routinely advocates for the rights of small business owners and independent drivers, the OOIDA strictly opposes the idea of lowering the CDL age. They contend that allowing younger drivers to obtain CDLs would “not only be detrimental to road safety, but also to those seeking to enter the trucking industry as professional drivers.”
The specific legislative proposals opposed by the OOIDA include:
• H.R. 5358, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE Safe) Act
• H.R. 3889, the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor (WHEEL) Act
Essentially, if either or both of these measure pass, it opens up the possibility of allowing “teenagers” to drive large trucks. The OOIDA’s letter points out that “among other statistics and concerns, 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.”
Less Safety with Younger Drivers?
Concerns of the OOIDA and other stakeholders certainly have their merits given the immense responsibility of interstate trucking. In many cases, individuals pursuing a CDL would still be relatively new to driving non-commercial vehicles. With minimal experience driving cars, the concerns over allowing younger people to drive heavy-duty trucks remain tangible. In a statement, acting president of the OOIDA, Todd Spencer said,
“It’s irresponsible to put young drivers behind the wheel of a truck in order to avoid addressing the real problems of high turnover. The focus should instead be on fixing the staggering turnover rate with better pay and working conditions.”
He noted also that these newly proposed bills resemble previous attempts at lowering the CDL age in 2001. Back then, the goal was to allow drivers as young as 18 to drive interstate. Many perceived as going against common sense safety standards in the trucking world. Relatively speaking, not much has changed that would warrant younger drivers to enter this industry.
Is Lowering the CDL Age a Bad Idea?
The huge concern is that this is another way to keep driver wages as low as possible, perhaps at the sacrifice of quality and safe drivers. Meanwhile, for young people with skill and dedication to this type of profession, the bill represents a way to start a lucrative and fulfilling career as a commercial driver.
For now, we’ll have to see how these bills progress and whether younger drivers will have their chance to enter the world of commercial driving. What are your thoughts on lowering the CDL age? Let us know in the comments below!