Legislation would endorse younger interstate drivers

WASHINGTON – Two Republican congressmen have introduced legislation that would allow people between the ages of 18 and 21 to drive commercial motor vehicles across state lines.

Current federal law does not permit 18- to 21-year-olds to drive commercial vehicles for interstate commerce. They can only drive within state borders.

Under the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy, or DRIVE-Safe Act, young drivers would have to complete a two-step internship once they obtain a commercial driver’s license.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind., would require these drivers to log 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver after earning a CDL.

Once they completed the required hours, the young drivers would be able to participate in interstate commerce.

While the proposed legislation is truck-focused and doesn’t specifically mention passenger-carrying vehicles, it could end up being good for the bus and motorcoach industry, said Ken Presley, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs and industry relations/COO for the United Motorcoach Association.

“By gaining three years of commercial driving experience, there will be some 21 year olds who will want to cross over to driving a motorcoach, thereby increasing the pool of drivers,” Presley said.

Supporters of allowing younger interstate drivers say the bill would help address the shortage of commercial motor vehicle drivers. And, because CDL holders tend to be older, recruiting younger drivers is crucial.

Supporters also point out that under the current federal restrictions, a driver younger than 21 can’t make a one-hour trip across a state line but can drive for several hours within a large state.

In the Washington, D.C., area, for example, such a driver is prohibited from making a quick trip between Arlington, Va., and Bethesda, Md., yet can legally drive a commercial vehicle from Arlington to Norfolk, Va., a more than six-hour round-trip drive.

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