ACA Urges Passage of the DRIVE-Safe Act
Earlier this month, ACA sent a letter to members of Congress in support of the DRIVE-Safe Act (S.659). The legislation would help to alleviate the nationwide shortage of commercial drivers by providing younger drivers with the opportunity to enter the industry with enhanced safety training for emerging members of the transportation industry. ACA was among more than 100 associations and organizations that signed the letter in support of DRIVE-Safe Act passage.
In the April 14 letter to Congressional members, ACA and its cosignatories asked that the legislation be included in a major infrastructure legislative package and/or surface transportation reauthorization bill, as the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure take up that work.
Last year, the bipartisan legislation garnered the support of more than one third of the House and Senate in the 116th Congress. The bill has a companion bill in the House of Representatives, H.R.1745.
Seventy percent of the nation’s freight is carried by commercial trucks, and while demand is projected to increase over the next decade, the threat posed by the driver shortage stands to disrupt the continuity of the supply chain. This is especially problematic as the nation and economy recover from the monumental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet as the economy strengthens, motor carriers are having difficulty finding the drivers they need to handle growing capacity. According to a recent American Trucking Association estimate, the nation needs an additional 60,800 truck drivers immediately, a shortage that is expected to grow to more than 160,000 by 2028, the letter noted.
In many supply chains, companies are being forced to increase prices to account for higher transportation costs. This will ultimately result in higher prices for consumers on everything from electronics to food.
While 48 states currently allow drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license at 18, they are prohibited from driving in interstate commerce until they are 21. The DRIVE-Safe Act would create a two-step apprenticeship program to allow these younger drivers to enter the industry safely. Candidates would be accompanied in the cab by experienced drivers for a total of 400 hours of additional training.
Notably, trucks used in the program would be required to be outfitted with the latest safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less and automatic or automatic manual transmissions. Professional drivers training within the program are also required to be accompanied by an experienced driver throughout the process.
“The DRIVE-Safe Act will help our nation’s freight continue to move while preserving and enhancing the safety of our highway system,” the letter states. “It will help fill desperately-needed jobs and provide younger Americans with the opportunity to enter a profession with a median salary of $54,585, plus health and retirement benefits. And it will bolster and support our nation’s supply chain, which is an issue of heightened urgency as our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
ACA hopes to work with coalition partners and Congress to enact this important legislation.
Contact ACA’s Heidi McAuliffe for more information.