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Federal program to lower age limit for truck drivers crossing state lines

Posted at 5:51 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 19:51:21-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Could letting teens drive big rigs across state lines solve the current trucking shortage? That will soon be allowed under a new test program from the federal government.

But not all industry experts are rolling along with this idea.

Steve Schelin of Pride Transport in Salt Lake City says they’ve been struggling with a truck driver shortage since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Trucking is in a crisis right now because we can’t find qualified drivers. It’s a tough lifestyle. You have to get used to it. It’s not for everybody,” Schelin said.

A new idea to solve the shortage is letting teen truckers drive across state lines. Currently, truckers who cross state lines must be at least 21 years old, but this apprenticeship program would let 18-to-20-year-old truckers drive outside their home states.

After the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law this past November, the program was created and it will be operational soon, but the concept makes Schelin uneasy.

“I think if there was a process to make sure you are putting the very best, well-trained 18-year-old out there, they should look at that, but I am not a fan of letting just any teen go interstate,” he said.

Pride Transport has about 450 drivers right now, but they’re down about 70 from where they should be, with as many trucks sitting waiting for a driver. He says there are a lot of rules in trucking within the state, and it’s compounded if you travel state to state.

“Having to deal with DOT officers more, rest stops, knowing how to trip plan, things like that. Drivers that are in state don’t have to deal with that. I think a lot of training would have to be put into an 18-year-old,” said Schelin.

Between drivers retiring and the implementation of a federal drug and alcohol clearinghouse, which tracks CDL drivers who have tested positive for prohibited drug or alcohol use or refused a test, many drivers have left the business.