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Is lowering age for interstate trucking the smart thing to do?

The average age of drivers at one U.S. long-haul trucking company is 50. And according to the American Trucking Association, the turnover rate among semitractor trailer drivers is currently riding at around 90 percent.

As we noted in a recent post, drivers can face a lot of pressure behind the wheel. Among the sources of that pressure is the lack of depth on the bench. But money is another major motivator. Industry advocates aren't shy about saying that the profit margin in commercial trucking is narrow. Trucking companies face price pressures from shippers. Drivers face pressures to cut delivery times.

What that pressure also does, though, is increase the risk that a catastrophically devastating truck accident is going to occur on the highways in Georgia or somewhere else in the country.

Length of years in the business usually counts for a lot as a driver. But even veteran truckers can succumb to the pressures. And so it should not be surprising that a proposal that would make it possible for 18-year-olds to start doing interstate hauling is being met with a bit of a mixed reaction.

Right now, drivers as young as 18 can driver commercial trucks inside state lines, but federal law requires they be at least 21 to go interstate. The proposition put forward by a group of senators in Washington would make it possible for states to form compacts that would permit 18-year-olds to drive interstate.

The measure has the support of the ATA, but not everyone in the industry is necessarily on board with the idea that lowering the age is the way to solve the driver shortage problem. One trucking company president doesn't oppose the lower age but suggests that improving pay and benefit structures deserves just as much consideration.

And a driver who claims to have more than 5 million miles under his belt says young drivers lack the necessary experience to just be let loose on the road. He says he could only support lowering the age if the law also required the young rookies to learn the ropes by shadowing a veteran driver for at least six months.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Source: The Record, "Lower age for truckers? North Jersey weighs in," Melanie Andzidei, July 22, 2015

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