Young adult members of Generation Z appear poised for inclusion in truck driving careers as a growing number of members of Congress indicate they support the Drive Safe Act.
The DRIVE Safe Act is an acronym for “Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy” and has far more to do with creating pathways for young adult Americans into good-paying careers than new regulations. The bill was reintroduced by Senators Todd Young and Jon Tester in March and enjoyed bipartisan support.
“Today, 18-year-olds can drive more than 200 miles from New Albany to Gary and back, but they aren’t allowed to drive two miles from New Albany to Louisville,” Sen. Young reportedly said. “The DRIVE-Safe Act will eliminate this ridiculous regulation and in doing so address the driver shortage while providing new career opportunities for young Hoosiers.”
Senators Tom Cotton, Jim Inhofe, Angus King, Joe Manchin, Jerry Moran, and Kyrsten Sinema all backed the legislation that appears to be on track to survive the massive infrastructure bill reconciliation process.
The trucking industry has struggled to put enough qualified CDL professionals behind the wheel over the years. Red tape has led to delays in CDL-holders getting to work, and the prohibition of people 18-21 years old transporting freight across state lines had something of a chilling effect. Relegated to only in-state work, young adults often secure local and regional jobs in construction and other sectors rather than wait three years. What many believe defies common sense is that 49 states and the District of Columbia allow Gen Zers to secure a CDL and operate the same rigs as OTR truckers. The only difference is operating the rig within a defined region and, of course, lower wages in many cases.
“Now more than ever, young Montanans need more opportunities to get comprehensive job training, access higher-paying work, and grow their careers early on,” Sen. Tester reportedly said. “This bipartisan bill will do just that, allowing younger truck drivers to get top-of-the-line apprenticeships that kick their careers into gear, all while providing a big boost to the thousands of communities across the Big Sky who rely almost exclusively on trucks to move goods in and out of the state.”
Although Gen Z truckers will be able to jumpstart their long-haul careers sooner, they will have to go the extra mile. The DRIVE Safe Act requires people 18-21 to undergo a two-step process that involves completing upwards of 400 on-duty hours and 240 with an experienced trucker in the cab. These additional hurdles may prove inconvenient in the short run, but trucking industry insiders view the DRIVE Safe Act as a tremendous opportunity for Gen Z and future generations.
“This is a common-sense proposal that will open enormous opportunities for the 18-21 year-old population, giving them access to a high-paying profession free of the debt burden that comes with a four-year degree,” ATA president CEO Chris Spear reportedly said. “Moreover, this bill would strengthen training programs beyond current requirements to ensure safety and that drivers are best prepared.”