Truck drivers in West Virginia perform one of the nation’s most vital jobs by transporting food and other essential products. However, truck accidents are a huge safety concern. A new infrastructure law may now allow teenage truck drivers to make cross-country trips, and safety advocates are worried.
Truck driver shortage
There are estimates that the US trucking industry needs 80,000 more truck drivers to keep up with industry demands. To help fill this gap, a new infrastructure law has made it legal for truck drivers as young as 18 to book interstate jobs. In the past, teen truckers could only make short deliveries within one state and had to wait until they turned 21 to do interstate drives.
The change in federal law is not necessarily permanent, since it is part of a three-year program. However, safety advocates are opposing the pilot program since teen drivers have a much higher crash rate than older drivers. Statistics show that teenagers are four times more likely to get into motor vehicle accidents than drivers with more experience.
Trucking industry is pushing for more flexible regulations
In addition to the relaxed age requirement, the trucking industry has been pushing for less regulation of driving hours. A coalition of 100 trucking industry associations wrote to President Biden to request regulatory flexibilities in order to prevent supply chain interruptions.
Currently, truckers are limited to 11 hours of drive time per day and 70 hours of drive time per week. In 2020, President Trump made an exception to these rules by allowing truckers to drive for 14 hours in a single shift for certain shorter distance trips.