If you are 18 years old, you currently can not drive an 18-wheeler across state lines. But that may change thanks to a bill which would allow teens to drive 80,000-pound interstate big rigs.
Texas and 47 other states already allow persons 18 and older to get a commercial driver’s license for driving big rigs within each state. By federal law the minimum age for driving an 18 wheeler across state lines is 21 years old.
However, legislation pending in the U.S. Senate in 2015 would allow drivers 18 and older to drive lumbering semi trucks anywhere, including across state lines. The bill would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to launch a six-year pilot program letting 18-year-olds drive commercial vehicles such as big rigs and buses across state lines — in other words, anywhere in America.
Jim Adler & Associates does not consider this a good idea, based solely on the fact that teen drivers are four to six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than older drivers. Such drivers lack the experience necessary to place enormous — and enormously dangerous — 18-wheeler trucks in their hands.
The trucking industry supports lower the legal age for truckers, in large part because truck drivers are in great demand. Of course, younger drivers wouldn’t be paid as much either. But the trucking business doesn’t seem to be taking into account the huge losses in life and property which could be caused by having thousands more teen truckers on the roads.
Indeed, there is “unequivocal scientific evidence of a markedly elevated crash risk among people younger than 21 who drive large trucks,” says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a national safety group.
Also, the U.S. Department of Transportation says drivers 18-20 are involved in two-thirds more — or 66% more — fatal collisions than drivers 21 and older. That’s in part why Hertz and Enterprise, America’s biggest rental car companies, generally do not rent cars to drivers under 21.
“This is a terrible idea,” said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “It will result in more crashes, more deaths and more injuries.”
Anne McCartt, the senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a National Safety Council spokeswoman, cites many studies indicating that the rate of all accidents is much higher for truckers under 21, regardless of how much training they’ve had via graduated licensing programs.
Clearly, the trucking industry is placing profits ahead of safety when it comes to pushing this legislation through Congress.