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Ripon Advance

U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) on Aug. 16 introduced companion legislation that would direct the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations related to commercial motor vehicle drivers under the age of 21 to help get more truckers into the industry.

The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act, S. 3352, aims to reduce driver shortages in the U.S. trucking and logistics industry, according to the senators, and improve safety training and job prospects for younger truck drivers.

“Indiana is the Crossroads of America, and the truck driver shortage has a significant impact on our state,” said Sen. Young, the main sponsor of S. 3352, who was joined by original cosponsors U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. Moran in introducing the bill.

S. 3352 is the U.S. Senate version of the same-named H.R. 5358, introduced on March 21 by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and which has the support of 66 Republican and five Democratic cosponsors.

“As I’ve traveled throughout Indiana, I have heard from Hoosiers that a pathway is needed to qualify more drivers to move goods safely and efficiently,” Sen. Young added. “The DRIVE-Safe Act will help address the driver shortage, enhance safety and create new career opportunities for young Hoosiers.”

Currently, federal law prohibits 18-year-old licensed commercial truck drivers from hauling goods between states until they turn 21, although many states allow 18-year-olds to obtain a commercial driver’s license, according to a joint statement from the Senate lawmakers.

If enacted, the DRIVE-Safe Act would authorize the establishment of a training program that would allow for the legal operation of a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce by licensed commercial drivers under age 21, according to the statement.

The apprenticeship program would provide younger drivers with training on current standards via rigorous safety and performance benchmarks, and would require them to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab with them, according to the lawmakers’ statement. All trucks used in the training program would have to be equipped with advanced safety technology, such as active braking collision mitigation systems and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or below.

“Not only would the DRIVE-Safe Act create new career opportunities for young Kansans, but it would also help move the supply-chain nationwide in a more expeditious manner – benefitting many sectors of the Kansas economy,” said Sen. Moran.

Sen. Inhofe pointed out that S. 3352 would expand “the opportunity for all commercial license holders to engage in interstate commerce,” and give younger Americans the chance to “fully benefit from a skilled career.”

The measure is supported by the International Foodservice Distributor Association (IFDA), which last week thanked Sen. Young for “driving this legislation forward,” said Mark Allen, IFDA’s president and chief executive officer. “This bill reinforces a culture of safety far and above current standards to provide the next generation of drivers with the critical skills they need to operate a truck safely on our nation’s highways,” Allen said.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear also voiced support for the Drive-Safe Act, which he said “would open the door to millions of Americans who are seeking a career and a path to the middle class by training young men and women to safely and reliably move freight across state lines.”

S. 3352 has been referred to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for consideration. H.R. 5358 is being reviewed by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

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