By The Shelby Report
Forty-two trade associations—ranging from grocers to distributors to restaurants—have signed a letter urging Congressman Bill Shuster, chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to support the DRIVE-Safe Act, short for the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act.
The act addresses the national truck driver shortage by promoting a program intended to engage those 21 and younger in interstate commerce. The program would offer safety training and help young drivers develop their skills. The letter points out that while 48 states currently allow drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at age 18, those same drivers are prohibited from driving in interstate commerce until they are 21 years old. Under current federal law, a 20-year-old truck driver could not drive 14 miles from Springfield, Virginia, to Washington, D.C., but that same driver could haul a load from Arlington to Norfolk, Virginia, a more than six-hour, round-trip drive.
“The DRIVE-Safe Act is a common-sense proposal that will open enormous opportunities for an emerging workforce and strengthen safety training programs,” said Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association(IFDA).
The DRIVE-Safe Act creates a two-step training program to allow younger drivers to enter the industry safely. Candidates would be accompanied in the cab by experienced drivers for a total of 400 hours of on-duty time with at least 240 hours of driving time.
Trucks would be required to be outfitted with the latest safety technology, including active braking collision mitigation systems; forward-facing, event-recording cameras; speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less; and automatic or automatic-manual transmissions.
Based on current projections, the letter estimates that the nation needs an additional 50,000 truck drivers immediately and that the driver shortage could grow to more than 174,000 by 2026. Companies are increasing prices to account for higher transportation costs. It is estimated that individuals entering the trucking profession could begin earning $53,000 with full benefits.
Food groups signing the letter include the American Bakers and Beverage Associations, Associated Grocers of New England, Food Marketing Institute, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Grocers Association, National Milk Producers Association, National Potato Council, New Hampshire Grocers Association and SNAC International.