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$1.2 trillion infrastructure bill aims to get younger truck drivers on the road, mitigate supply chain issues

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 1:16 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:28 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - As part of the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Biden, truck drivers under 21 will soon be able to cross state lines. Currently, the legal age limit for interstate commerce is 21.

The American Trucking Association estimates there is a shortage of 80,000 drivers, with long-haul drivers seeing the most significant need. Industry experts believe the federal minimum age of 21 to drive commercially across state lines poses a challenge when recruiting new drivers. They believe lowering the age for interstate commerce will help with transportation-related supply chain issues.

The law would task Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg with launching an apprenticeship program for young drivers to be created by Jan. 14, 2022.

The apprenticeship program will require commercial truck drivers between 18 and 20 to complete 400 hours of on-duty time. Apprentices will be required to team up with an experienced driver for those all of those hours.

Trucks that are driven by anyone under 21 must have safety systems in place, including active braking collision and video capabilities.

Student truck drivers like Jacob Gaul believe the relaxed laws will open up new opportunities for younger people and help with the supply chain issues the country is facing.

“To judge someone’s ability or inability by their age just restricts and keeps opportunities from people,” said Gaul. “There’s a reason why we have regulated trucking schools, and that’s to make sure that if I’m not capable or if I’m incapable of performing the task of driving a commercial vehicle safely, then I know that my school and my instructors are not going to allow me to move on.”

“I think people should open their eyes and trust the process,” said Gaul.

Driving instructor Corbin Jeffs with the Reveille Commercial-Driver Training Academy (RCTA) at Blinn College on the Rellis Campus says drivers are needed now more than ever.

“Especially right now around the holidays, you know everything got to get to the stores,” said Jeffs. “We need food, stuff for the house, everything is needed, and truck drivers move everything.”

Venkatesh Shankar is the Coleman Chair and Professor of Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University. He sees the law change as a long term solution. Shankar says things will not get better immediately. He says holiday store returns will add more stress to the supply chain system.

“As a result, we will see an increased uptick in returns, and the industry has to be prepared to handle those returns starting January, February, onward, so preparing for that is important as well,” said Shankar.

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