Bill would allow younger truckers to travel farther

Younger truck drivers could soon travel farther. (WDTN Photo)
Younger truck drivers could soon travel farther. (WDTN Photo)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – You may soon see younger truck drivers on the road.

A new bill in Congress could allow 18 to 20-year-olds to drive to neighboring states.  The trucking industry is at a fork in the road.

“We’ve got what we call a driver shortage. It’s been going on for quite some time,” said Kevin Burch, Jet Express president.

Burch says there are several reasons why.  “A perfect storm. We have an aging workforce in our industry and we’ve done not a bad job, but a pathetically poor job of getting people interested in being involved in trucking.”

That could soon change. The Commercial Drivers Act is currently a bill in the Senate. It would allow 18 to 20-year-olds the opportunity to drive to bordering states.

As it stands now, the more than 2,000 Ohio truck drivers in that age group can drive several hundred miles but, only in the Buckeye State.

“They can’t go over to Richmond, Indiana which is only there and back less than 30 miles.”

Essentially, states will create partnerships for younger drivers in the form of a step program to get them accustomed to the road.

“We’re not trying to put young people behind a big rig and send them to the West Coast. We want to make a graduated type program.”

Truck driver, Ralph Otto, believes 18 to 20-year-old drivers may need something visible to show their age.

“Just like NASCAR. Their rookie drivers have a yellow stripe on the back of the bumper,” he said.

But, like NASCAR, accidents can happen.  Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety say 18-year-olds are more likely than older drivers to be involved in crashes.

It’s not enough to deter Burch. “It’s a training process that if it’s done properly, it can work.”

Many drivers we spoke with were in favor of the new bill. “Better! I need more time off. I’m retired.”

He wants a more relaxing retirement. “They just keep putting loads on me all the time.” It’s a load that the industry hopes can be carried off older shoulders to a new generation.

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