Are teenagers the solution to the nationwide truck driver shortage?

Posted at 3:42 PM, Aug 15, 2018

If you've notice delays in the delivery of your packages or higher prices for some of things you order, a shortage of truck drivers may be to blame. A new program is hoping to bring some relief, but some worry it'll make roads less safe.

The program trains teenagers to drive cross country. Elijah Amos is one of the teens involved with the program and working towards getting his commercial driver’s license.

“I think we really did it for me is driving,” Amos says. “Because I really like driving and I feel like you get paid a decent amount of money. Just to drive.”

But since he's 18, he won't be able to drive from state to state. He'll have to wait until he's 21. However, a new government pilot program will soon allow some drivers as young as 18 to drive cross country.

“I feel like it would open up more job opportunities,” Amos says. “And maybe it opened up the eyes to some of the younger people maybe like actually try and do it.”

The program would be available to some members of the National Guard and others with military experience. But in March, House Republicans introduced a bill to lower the commercial driving age to 18 for anyone driving state to state. Their goal? To fight a nation-wide truck driving shortage.

Quincy Jones, who directs Sage Truck Driving School, says it's been challenging to attract driving students. He says ultimately, consumers pay the price.

“Shipping costs get passed down the consumer,” Jones says. “So if there's a shortage, those aren't getting picked up as frequently. And so who pays them? We do. We all pay. Consumers do."

The American Trucking Associations says the shortage is expected to hit 63,000 this year. But with motor vehicle drivers aged 16 to 19 being nearly three times more likely than people over 20 to fatally crash, not everyone believes teen drivers are the solution to the problem.

“Younger people have less experience driving for all types of vehicles,” says Norita Taylor, with the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association. “And so the crash rates are higher for younger people, and so we think it would be a dangerous idea.”

Sponsors say the bill would require teens complete at least 240 hours driving supervised by a veteran driver.