Truck drivers have enormous responsibility to prevent truck accidents while operating large commercial motor vehicles. Because they are expected to be responsible and experienced, truckers must obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) before they are allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle. There are myriad requirements before a CDL may be issued, and long-haul truckers who go across state lines must comply with federal rules and mandates. One of those federal requirements is for the driver to be at least 21-years-old before driving trucks across state lines.
Fox Business, however, reports a new federal bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to allow states to form compacts changing the minimum age requirement. In the states that agree, drivers would no longer need to be 21 years old to go across state lines. Instead, they could get a CDL and travel across state borders starting at age 18. Lowering the age has been suggested as a way of dealing with a nationwide trucker shortage. But there are serious concerns about whether allowing younger individuals to drive big rigs across the country is a good idea.
Should 18-Year-Olds Drive Trucks Across State Lines?
Currently, there is a severe trucker shortage nationwide. As many as 35,000 to 40,000 jobs openings exist across the country for licensed commercial truck drivers. The trucker shortage is so extreme, Fortune has referred to it as a "rolling crisis." And the shortage will only get worse as truckers retire and qualified people do not enter the profession to take their place.
But lowering the age to 18 could result in a flood of unqualified and inexperienced drivers taking trucks across state lines. Someone who is 18-years-old only has limited experience operating any type of motor vehicle, much less a commercial truck weighing as much as 80,000 pounds. Truckers also have to work as much as 82 hours a week under some circumstances, so teens would be thrust into a situation where they may be working long hours.
Young people at just 18 may also not be as responsible as older drivers, in addition to lacking practical experience on the roads. University of Rochester Medical Center indicates a teen's brain is not fully developed and research has shown there is an identifiable difference between the way teen and adult brains work. In particular, the rational part of a person's brain responsible for helping people make safe and smart decisions is not developed until someone is at least 25-years of age. Teens responsible for driving trucks may be more likely to be reckless than older drivers, putting themselves and other people at serious risk.
Safety advocates have called the proposal to lower the age to 18 a "catastrophe waiting to happen." While trucker shortages need to be solved, giving young kids the keys to big rigs is not the way to do it.