infrastructure plan

18-Year-Old Truck Drivers Could Soon Cross State Lines

NBC 7 Responds looked at the potential changes and how they could impact the trucking industry.

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Commercial truck drivers must be 21 or older to transport goods across state lines, but new rules in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate could create a program for some 18-year-olds to cross state lines.

Some say the rule change could lead to more opportunities and help the industry's hiring crunch, but others think it'll make the roads more dangerous.

"There's always been a shortage," said Phil Harris, a training coordinator at United Truck Driving School. "Finding truck drivers has always been a hard thing."

There's a lot of training that goes into being a driver. Harris says it takes about six months. Currently 18-year-olds can only drive within the state, and must be 21 to cross state lines. It's part of the reason why the industry says it is 160,000 drivers short of how many are needed.

"I think getting into this industry younger is going to be good because you don't have the family, you don't have all the children, the kids," Harris said.

Most drivers start making about $50,000 to $60,000 their first year of driving. While drivers have to be 21 to cross state lines, there is an exemption for people in the military. Harris says 20% of new commercial drivers are former military.

"I think it's just going to open up more doors to keep things moving," Harris said. "Travel and getting paid, it's a lot. I think as an 18-year-old if I could have that, great! You're going to pay me to travel?"

The Senate bill would create a pilot program before allowing any trained 18-year-olds to drive. That program would be limited to just 3,000 drivers.

Some students also have family reasons for wanting to become truck drivers. Andy Stewart said he comes from a family of truckers and his grandfather drove for 40 years.

"Why not follow my grandfather's footsteps?" asked Stewart, a 21-year-old student.

Harris said it helps to not just be in the job for money. Currently, young drivers only stay in the industry for about two years. He hopes allowing younger drivers to succeed might help them stay longer.

"You do want to have that passion of driving a truck," said Harris. "This isn't a job where we can come in because we want that money. You do need to have some sort of passion."

The Senate's bill now goes to the House where it is expected to be voted on by September 27th.

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