If it’s been said once, it’s been mentioned a hundred times. The industry believes there’s a truck driver shortage.
This lack of available drivers has incentivized trucking companies to offer positive results, such as better trucker treatment, higher starting pay, and higher bonuses. Overall, these remedies appear to have increased the number of available truckers.
But trucking companies still aren’t happy with the amount people that apply to become a truck driver.
In order to alleviate this shortage,representatives in the state of Alabama have proposed a bill to lower the driving age for semi-trucks. Instead of an age limit of 21, the age limit would become 18.
Alabama is not the first state to discuss this change.
Let’s discuss the finer details of the Alabama bill and what it means for the trucking industry if it passes.
Getting a CDL in High School
Dubbed HB479, the bill allows 18-year-olds to get their Class A Commercial Driver’s License. Once the CDL is acquired, these teens can apply to work for any trucking company. As long as they offer runs that are limited to Alabama.
This intrastate restriction only gives 18-year-old truckers about 300 miles to roam. This means that any 18-year-old drivers would be taking highly-desired local driving jobs, but not the OTR jobs that are in more need of drivers.
In addition to the area regulation, the rookie drivers wouldn’t be allowed to take on dangerous loads. HAZMAT runs would still be reserved for those over the age of 21. For now.
For these drivers, getting a truck driving salary right out of high school can be a big deal. And it looks like there are loads of trucking companies ready to sign them.
According to Houston Blackwood, the interim director at Calhoun Workforce Solutions, “They say all the time, ‘We’ll hire your drivers right away.’”
Calhoun Workforce Solutions works with Calhoun Community College to prep students for a career in trucking. Their students’biggest obstacle is usually the wait to turn 21 to officially become a trucker.
What This Means For Trucking
If HB479 passes, the law will go into effect as of February, 2020. And the odds of it passing are pretty high. Especially considering this is not the first time such a law was proposed.
Lowering the CDL age to 18 has also met opposition.
According to Todd Spencer, President of Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, “We think it’s irresponsible to put young drivers behind the wheel of a truck in order to avoid addressing the real problems of high turnover”.
Spencer goes on to say that “The focus should instead be on fixing the staggering turnover rate with better pay and working conditions.”
If lowering the age requirements becomes the norm across the nation, the possible trucker shortage may be eliminated. But it may come at a hefty price. With a surplus workforce, companies may not be incentivized to offer higher truck driver wages or resolve lingering issues about the industry.