Truck drivers in Texas probably know how the state only allows them to travel interstate if they are 21 or older. A bipartisan bill introduced in February 2019 and called the DRIVE-Safe Act may alter this. It proposes to let truckers aged 18 to 20 travel interstate after a probationary period where they complete 400 driving hours. At least 240 of those hours are to be accompanied with another CDL holder who is 21 or older.
In February 2020, the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety held a hearing about this bill and other trucking-related matters like hours-of-service regulations and the use of speed limiters. There was opposition to the bill from safety groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Truck Safety Coalition.
OOIDA’s executive vice president pointed out that legislators are aiming to reverse the driver shortage when in reality, there is no such thing. The Truck Safety Coalition’s president testified that crash rates are higher among truckers under 21. If they begin to travel in states where everything is unfamiliar, those rates are bound to spike.
The president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance focused on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its failure to maintain and update trucking regulations. Others advocated for the improvement of safety policies through well-designed infrastructure.
Though regulations do help in preventing truck crashes, they cannot entirely eliminate their risk. Truckers are responsible for their own conduct, regardless of how old or experienced they are, and if they cause a crash through distracted, drunk or drowsy driving, then they will be held liable. Victims of a negligent truck driver may be eligible for compensatory damages, but they may want a lawyer by their side. Trucking companies can be aggressive, after all, in denying claims.