Safety advocates warn that a move to help ease the nation’s supply-chain difficulties for consumers and businesses may also increase the risks for motorists on Texas roadways.
The trucking industry says it is 80,000 drivers short of meeting the needs for moving cargo across the country. A provision in the recent infrastructure bill allows truck drivers as young as 18 to drive big rigs across state lines.
Pilot project raises concerns over motorist safety
The new law creates a three-year pilot project lowering the required age for truckers who cross state lines from 21 to 18. Highway safety groups opposed the measure, citing statistics showing teenagers are four times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle crash than drivers who are at least 20 years old.
The nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety group says putting inexperienced, risk-taking teenagers behind the wheel of 80,000-pound trucks is reckless and dangerous, as this age group already experiences higher fatal crash rates.
The pressure is on to relax other safety standards
Due to the nation’s continued supply-chain woes, the trucking industry is also urging the government to roll back other federal requirements over driver rest. Under current Department of Transportation rules, truck drivers must:
- Limit driving to 11 hours in a workday
- Cap driving hours to 70 per week
- Take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift
The previous administration put an exemption in place allowing drivers who make shorter trips to work 14-hour daily shifts. Many proposals to relax these standards were made before the pandemic, but Congress has not supported easing rest requirements for truckers so far.