(Updates with legislation starting in eighth paragraph.)
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing to allow people as young as 18 to drive trucks across state lines to ease a shortage of truckers that’s straining the supply chain.
“There simply aren’t enough truckers on the road to meet the demand,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Josh Harder (D-Calif.), wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Thursday. “As our supply chain issues continue to grow, we should be doing everything we can to fix the problem.”
Supply chain delays have become a top concern for lawmakers as a shortage of workers and backlogged ports have slowed the movement of goods ahead of the holiday season. The American Trucking Associations has estimated that there is a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers, which they say is an all-time high for the industry.
More than 80 lawmakers signed on to the letter, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), and Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), according to a House aide.
As of now, only drivers 21 and older can hold a commercial driver’s license to operate across state lines. Under the Trump administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sought comment on a pilot program to allow drivers aged 18 to 20 years to operate trucks in interstate commerce.
“This new pilot program would create a road map to drastically increase the number of truck drivers and alleviate the current crisis,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Yet, the DOT has not taken action to move this program forward.”
Trucking safety groups and advocates have opposed allowing younger drivers to operate big rigs when it has been proposed by the department and in legislation.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who signed the letter, introduced a bill (H.R. 5847) Wednesday with other House Republicans to allow 18 to 20 year olds to drive trucks and pick up cargo at ports within a state.
Driving from a port within a state to another part of the state is currently considered interstate commerce and therefore only allowed for truckers 21 years old and up, Mast said.
“There is unnecessary government red tape preventing companies from implementing logical solutions to this problem,” Mast said in a statement Thursday. “This bill would cut that red tape to get more drivers on the road in time for holiday deliveries.”
The bipartisan infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684), which passed in the Senate but is stalled in the House, also includes a provision that would allow drivers under 21 years old to drive in interstate commerce through a pilot apprenticeship program.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org