Congress Introduces Bipartisan Plan to Address Driver Shortage

The DRIVE-Safe Act expands trucking candidate pool and modernizes safety training.

Getty Images 1023119734 Trucking
Getty Images

Bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate and House today introduced legislation to address the urgent shortage of truck drivers affecting the movement and cost of goods throughout the United States. The DRIVE-Safe Act modernizes federal law to empower the trucking industry to fill these gaps with a qualified, highly trained emerging workforce.

The DRIVE-Safe Act has two prongs: It removes age restrictions on interstate transportation by licensed commercial drivers and strengthens safety-training standards across the industry. Young adults become eligible to seek commercial driver’s licenses at age 18 in most states; however, federal law currently prohibits these commercially licensed adults from driving across state lines before age 21.

According to a news release from the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), "this outdated prohibition bars the trucking industry from fully utilizing their complete workforce at a time when the country is facing a massive driver shortage and growing demand for freight transportation." IFDA estimates that trucking companies will need nearly 900,000 additional drivers over the next decade.

"The growing shortage is affecting the transportation and cost of goods for all consumers, as plants lack timely transportation for manufactured products, shipping is delayed, and current drivers are strained," the organization adds, noting the driver shortage is particularly straining on the foodservice distribution industry, which delivers hundreds of thousands of perishable products each day.

"The federal age restriction on interstate transportation creates an absurdity in places like the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland metro area, where a licensed foodservice distribution driver is prohibited from making a 5-mile delivery from Arlington to D.C. yet may drive 200 miles of miles to Virginia Beach," IDFA says. 

Formally named the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, DRIVE-Safe enhances safety and training standards for newly qualified and current drivers. Under the legislation, once a driver qualifies for a commercial driver’s license, they begin a two-step additional training program with rigorous performance benchmarks. Drivers must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time in the cab with an experienced driver. Every driver will train on trucks equipped with new safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture, and a speed governor of 65 miles per hour or below.   

The DRIVE-Safe Act is backed by a coalition of more than 50 industry trade groups including IFDA, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), National Restaurant Association (NRA), National Retail Federation (NRF), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and the American Beverage Association (ABA). The measure is cosponsored by Senators Todd Young, R-Ind.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Angus King, I-Maine; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; and Representatives Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind.; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Al Green, D-Texas; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; Paul Mitchell, R-Mich.; and Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. 

"Providing this workforce development opportunity for young drivers will lead to more comprehensive training, expanded career options, and access to higher paying jobs,” says Sen. Tester. “This bipartisan bill will also provide a big boost to Montana communities that rely almost exclusively on trucks to move goods in and out of the state.” 

Rep. Hollingsworth adds, “The current driver shortage puts our dynamic economy at risk and closes off high-paying trucking careers to young Americans. The DRIVE-Safe Act is an opportunity to improve the lives of many young Americans, give them opportunities for advancement, increase safety and skills training, and enhance the economy by eliminating the obstacles currently preventing the trucking industry from alleviating its workforce shortage.”