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Federal regulators consider lowering minimum truck-driving age to address critical driver shortage

The American Trucking Associations says the industry needs to hire almost 900,000 more drivers to meet demand, but a new federal law could offer a solution.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The life on the road and time spent away from family makes the truck driving industry less appealing than it once was, and now the driver shortage has reached a crisis point. 

Trucking companies are having a hard time finding drivers. In fact, the American Trucking Associations says the industry needs to hire almost 900,000 more drivers to meet the demand. But a new federal law could offer a solution.

Currently, states allow drivers 21 years old and under to drive trucks within state lines, but federal law does not allow drivers under 21 to cross state lines because of liability issues. However, in the latest industry effort to address a driver shortage, federal regulators covering long-haul truck drivers have announced they are considering allowing drivers under 21 to haul goods across interstate lines

Those against the bill say adding younger drivers does not solve the high turnover rate in the industry, but those who support it say it adds jobs to the economy and fills the gap of retiring drivers.

Jimmy Garrett, an instructor at Western Truck School in West Sacramento, has been a truck driver for more than two decades. He fully supports the initiative because it makes it easier for young drivers to join the industry.

"Any teenager being [between] 18-20 that’s willing to go through the effort of being trained for a skill has a good enough head on their shoulder to fulfill that skill,” Garrett said. 

He says currently, many trucking companies don’t give students an opportunity. Unfortunately, he added, most of them need at least two years of experience to drive out-of-state, forcing them to leave the industry even before they’re able to try it out.

Garrett also thinks the new regulation would help fill the gap of retiring drivers and meet the driver demand. According to the American Trucking Association, long distance truck drivers earn the most, with salaries averaging $82,000 a year.

“If we calculate how many students [between] 18 to 20 years old are put out through these schools throughout California alone, I’d say we are putting out close to 1,000 students a month,” Garrett said. “It would be a mistake if trucking companies didn’t take advantage of young students willing to go through the training.”

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