Highways in Illinois an across the country could soon be filled with large semi trucks driven by teenagers. A new infrastructure law aimed at solving the trucker shortage is set to relax the age requirements for interstate trucking work. Proponents of the change say that trucker shortages are creating problems in the supply chain.
Safety advocates are worried
While more truckers on the roads could solve driver shortage problems, safety advocates are worried that there will be more big rig accidents. In the past, truckers were required to be at least 21 years old before they could make interstate trips. Now, newly hired truck drivers as young as 18 could begin hauling loads across the country.
Teen drivers are at a statistically higher risk of getting into an accident than drivers at or over the age of 21. In fact, the crash risk for teens is four times higher than older adults. The new law that lowers age requirements for truckers is a three-year pilot program, so it’s not necessarily going to be a permanent change.
Exemptions to other safety laws
The trucking industry has largely supported deregulation. On Nov. 3, a coalition of around 100 trucking industry groups sent a letter to President Biden advocating for more regulatory flexibility. According to the letter, flexibility is needed during national emergencies to ensure that the supply chain continues to flow smoothly. In 2020 under President Trump, there was an exemption put in place that allowed some truckers to work 14-hour shifts.
Trucking work can be grueling, and the industry has been struggling to replace retiring truck drivers in recent years. In 2020, the industry lost 6.8% of its workforce. According to spokespeople in the trucking industry, our country needs around 80,000 more truck drivers to keep up with demand.