Wisconsin Truck Accident Lawyer Discusses Proposal to Reduce Trucker Age to 18

A nationwide shortage of truck drivers has motivated firms to lobby for changes in the minimum age limit for interstate truck driving. The current minimum age in 21, although some trucking firms and industry insiders want the age limit reduced to 18. Opponents cite safety concerns and the prospect for more truck accidents on the nation’s roads.

Demand for Truckers Greater than Supply

In 2015, a concerted effort by the trucking industry to lower age limits for truckers initially stalled in Congress. Nonetheless, it still sparked a review by the Wall Street Journal that linked the proposals to the nationwide trucker shortage. According to the WSJ article, the American Trucking Association (ATA) reported a 48,000 driver shortfall in 2015.

Federal law currently allows states the right to grant anyone over 18 years-of-age a CDL, which is the key qualification needed to operate a commercial truck. However, truckers must be 21 to haul freight across state lines. The fact that most trucking firms are interstate enterprises effectively creates a 21-year-old minimum age.

WSJ interviewed a third-generation truck driver who suggested that making potential truckers wait for three years after high school reduces the number that will ever consider long-haul trucking as a career. Many of these high school graduates find their way into other careers like construction and manufacturing. Since many are already entrenched in their career paths by the time they are 21, they never consider a career as a CDL driver.

Safety Concerns

One organization, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, opposes any effort to lower age limits for truck drivers citing statistics that such drivers get into more accidents. The organization questions why Congress would allow 18, 19 and 20-year-old drivers to operate semi-tractor trailers when, as a group, they are already among the highest-risk drivers.

On one hand, research suggests that the mind of a young person is not fully developed until approximately 25 years of age. In fact, rental car companies typically require that their customers be at least that age.

Critics of reduced age requirements in the trucking industry question how drivers 18, 19 or 20 years of age would have the decision-making abilities and mental acuity required to consistently operate a big rig in a safe manner. They also cite the higher sleep needs of younger individuals in general. The counter-argument is that intrastate truckers under 21 already operate in big states like California, Texas

Opponents to lowering the age limit to 18 cite data from the Department Of Transportation Fatality Analysis Recording Program, which suggests that truck drivers only driving intrastate (within states) were involved in 66 percent more fatalities than drivers ages 21 and older.

Pilot Program

A proposal to test reduced age limits was included in the FAST Act, a highway funding bill introduced in Congress. Senators and representatives ultimately compromised, allowing 18-20 year old military service members and veterans with military driving experience to participate in a pilot program which permits states to allow commercial drivers to cross their respective state lines. As a first step in setting up the pilot program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sought public input through September 21, 2016.

When a person is a victim of a truck accident due to negligent conduct, the law provides a means for seeking compensation via the state’s civil court system. It is common to seek compensation for certain medical expenses, pain, suffering and lost wages. Survivors of those killed often seek monetary damages for loss of companionship as well.

If you or a loved one is a victim of a truck crash, we make it possible for you to speak with a Wisconsin truck accident lawyer at no cost to you. We fight hard to get our clients every dollar they deserve under any and all applicable laws. To learn more, please contact us.