Due to the continuing supply-chain problems occurring nationwide, the standards are changing for qualified truck drivers moving products throughout the US. The recently signed and enacted infrastructure bill will allow drivers as young as 18 to travel cross country to fill up the deficit of 80,000 long-haul truck operators necessary to meet projections.
Potential risks from sacrificing safety standards
Many see it as trading efficiency for safety. Experts cite the statistic of teenagers being four times as likely to cause accidents. Putting a record number of them behind the wheel of big rigs could result in catastrophic consequences.
Current regulations by the Department of Transportation places limits on truckers’ hours behind the wheel. They are allowed to drive 11 hours in a workday and 70 hours per week. Thirty-minute breaks are mandated during the first eight hours of a shift.
Safety advocates have long contended that long workdays of lengthy road travel combined with unrealistic, if not unreasonable, demands put truck drivers and those sharing the road with them in serious danger.
But what if there aren’t enough drivers? With the current supply chain crisis, the backlog for delivering goods has grown as the holidays grow closer. Lowering the minimum age for truck drivers may be a necessary and potentially risky compromise. The issue has been coming on for a while, as older drivers exiting or outright retiring from truck driving significantly exceed incoming drivers starting their careers.
The American Truck Association cites a current number of 3.36 million employed truck drivers in 2020, a nearly seven percent reduction from 2019. Younger drivers will either be the answer or another transportation-related problem to solve.