As it stands, CDL drivers are typically required to be 21 years of age and over. While some states allow 18-year-olds to drive within the state bounds, crossing state lines is still illegal for drivers under 21. However, a new US Senate Bill might change all that. A bill currently before congress would lower the minimum age for CDL drivers to 18 years old across the nation. That would mean that traveling over state lines would no longer be illegal for those under 21. The bill has been met with both praise and criticism. Here are the basics.
The bill is fairly straightforward. It would seek to lower the minimum age of CDL drivers to 18 nationwide instead of the current 21 years. While individual states are allowed to set their own minimums and many, like Montana, do allow those who are 18 and over to obtain CDL licenses, these drivers are still limited in what they can earn because they can’t cross state lines. The bill hopes that lowering the minimum age will be able to offer these drivers more opportunity, increase job growth, and otherwise stimulate the economy.
Many people are concerned that lowering the minimum age of CDL drivers to 18 would be dangerous. One argument is that people who are under 21 don’t have the mental or psychological capacity to handle the stress of being out on the road as a CDL driver. For instance, long haul truckers often have to face extended hours of driving, isolation, and the stress of having to get their various loads to their destinations within a certain amount of time. Others say that the bill’s proposed training schedule doesn’t include enough hours of observation and apprenticeship and that those who go through the program will still be underprepared.
On the other hand, supporters of the bill say there is more than enough training involved in the bill’s proposal. They also look to the economic benefits of having more drivers available for work given the current shortage of 51,000 drivers, a shortage that is expected to increase to 174,000 by 2026. Supporters also point to the fact that states that already allow CDL drivers to obtain licenses at 18 haven’t shown any statistical proof that 18-year-olds are any less capable than those who are 21 and over where handling the demands of the job are concerned. Still other supporters point out that the law banning those under 21 from crossing state lines while engaged in CDL work dates back to the 1930s and that the law, like society, needs to move forward and meet current demands.
The bill is not proposing that licenses should be offered to those under 21 with no training or without some kind of rigorous evaluation process. Rather, there would be a two-step training process required for all CDL drivers under 21. The first step would include 400 hours of on-duty apprenticeship where they would learn the ropes. The second step would include 240 hours of supervised CDL driving, and the supervisor would have to be an experienced trucker with a proven track record of success and safety. This program would train younger drivers well beyond the current safety standards required for CDL drivers 21 and over.
There is still much debate about the bill and whether or not it should be passed. However, there’s no denying that passing the bill would help fill an ever-expanding need for CDL drivers nationwide. The current lack has led to many CDL drivers being forced to work beyond their maximum allotted hours, having to work for more consecutive days than is allowed by law, and otherwise having to put themselves at risk (or being forced to by their companies) just to meet demand. However, laws are on the books to protect CDL drivers from this treatment. If you’ve been forced to overwork or have lost your job because of it, contact an attorney in your area to defend yourself and protect your rights. Don’t just give up or give into pressures not to fight back. Get started with an experienced attorney in your area today.