Trucking industry experts say the nation is experiencing a shortage of drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License, and one local representative has potentially crafted a partial solution.
Rep. Dexter Grimsley (D-Newville) sponsors House Bill 479, which would lower the minimum age required to obtain a Class A CDL from 21 to 18 – with some restrictions. Restrictions in the original bill include a limitation to in-state travel, and an amendment adds restrictions prohibiting drivers under 21 from carrying hazardous materials and any oversized or “specially configured” loads.
Some of the restrictions reflect federal regulations, Grimsley said.
The change would widen the pool of people available to become a truck driver, a need in the growing economy.
American Trucking Associations told The Washington Post in May 2018 that the nation needed an additional 51,000 CDL drivers to handle demand. When Enterprise State Community College launched a CDL program last year, ESCC President Matt Rodgers told the Eagle that some organizations project a driver shortage that reaches 240,000 in 2024.
Even HB479’s opening language reflects the intent. Section 1 opens with “The Legislature finds that current economic conditions are such that the number of individuals willing and qualified to operate commercial vehicles is insufficient in relation to the volume of freight available.”
“Businesses need employees, need drivers,” Grimsley said. “It’s for the business community. It helps them out tremendously.”
Grimsley said he approved of the proposed amendment to the initial legislation. Should federal regulations change to allow drivers younger than 21 to conduct interstate travels, the bill includes language that would permit the adjustment.
The bill appears to have wide support as 59 of the 105 members of the House of Representatives have co-signed the legislation. Introduced on April 18, the bill has already been read a second time in the House of Representatives and has been scheduled for a third read and vote.
Should it gain House approval, it will then be passed along to the Senate for consideration.