$305B highway bill limits teen truckers

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

$305B highway bill limits teen truckers

The $305 billion highway bill announced by lawmakers on Tuesday limits an effort to lower the minimum age of truck drivers on interstate trips from 21 years of age to 18 to veterans and current military members and reservists.

The 1,300 page measure, which was unveiled days before a Friday deadline for renewing federal transportation funding, eschews a broader proposal to lower the minimum age of all interstate truck drivers in a pilot program that was approved earlier by the House and Senate.

Safety groups praised lawmakers for placing limits on the number of teenage truck drivers that will be allowed on U.S. roads.

“By restricting the three-year teen trucker pilot program to veterans and servicemen above the age of 18, Congress greatly restricted the amount of higher-risk drivers that would be allowed to drive trucks across state lines,” Truck Safety Coalition Executive Director John Lannen said in a statement.

The proposal to lower the minimum age of truck drivers was included in earlier appropriations bills that were approved by the House and Senate, igniting a fight between truck companies and safety groups that revved up as lawmakers were pressing to beat the rapidly approaching Dec. 4 highway funding deadline.

Supporters argued the idea of lower the minimum age for truckers was a modest effort to address a driver shortage that trucking companies have complained has hampered cargo movement in the U.S.

“This amendment would strike a limited pilot program that is authorizing drivers over 19 1/2 to enter into a graduated program to obtain a commercial driver’s license,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said when the proposal was being debated on the House floor in October.

“What’s interesting about the way present law is [written] is that a driver that’s over the age that’s being discussed here can drive all the way across the state of Missouri, for instance, but they can’t drive 10 miles in the city of Kansas City because it’s across state lines,” Graves continued then. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it actually hampers a whole lot of business.”

Truck companies cited a shortage of truck drivers they said has reached 48,000 as they pushed for the minimum age of interstate drivers to be lowered, arguing that older truckers are retiring at a faster clip than younger replacements are coming on line.

“The ability to find enough qualified drivers is one of our industry’s biggest challenges,” American Trucking Association President and former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves (R) said in a statement about the driver shortage released in the middle of the highway bill debate.

Democrats argued that it is too risky to turn the wheels of big rigs over to teenage drivers, however.

“Ask any parent, they know young drivers do not always listen, even when an experience is in the front seat,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said during the House highway bill debate.

Lawmakers ultimately split the difference, limiting the lower truck driver age limit to veterans and active military members.

The Truck Safety Coalition’s Lannen praised lawmakers for reaching an agreement that “removed several dangerous policies, improved upon other anti-safety measures,” though he added that the compromise bill “unfortunately, included some troubling provisions.

“We are extremely thankful to the members of Congress on the Conference Committee that listened to the facts and to the people,” he said. “Their hard work is evidenced by the positive changes made to the final bill.”

Link to Article: http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/261765-305-highway-bill-limits-teen-truckers-to-veterans-military-members

Read Joan Claybrook’s Statement in Response to the American Trucking Associations (ATA)

Statement of Joan Claybrook, Chair and

Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves is trying to bamboozle the American public into thinking that big rigs driven by overtired and overworked truck drivers is really safer for everyone.  Fortunately, the American public isn’t buying it.  A recent public opinion poll conducted by the well-respected Lake Research Partners shows that 80% of the public strongly opposes allowing truck drivers to work and drive up to 82 hours a week.  It’s not surprising that large margins of the American public also believe it will make our roads less safe.

Mr. Graves also makes the phony claim that the provision being pushed by Senator Collins (R-ME) benefiting corporate trucking interests is not being added to the funding bill at the11th hour.    Here are the facts.  There has not been a single congressional oversight hearing in either the House or Senate on making this dangerous and deadly change to current law.  There has not been any comprehensive safety review and analysis by experts.  And, there has not been an open rulemaking process for the public and others to express their views and voice their concerns.  Transparency is what is expected in a democracy when the public’s interests are put ahead of the interests of well-heeled and well-connected industry lobbyists.

This is not a new tactic for Senator Collins and the ATA.  Five years ago Senator Collins was responsible for a one-year exemption for Maine from federal truck limits allowing 100,000 pound trucks throughout the state.  The year after the exemption ended, Senator Collins came back and pushed through a twenty-year exemption.  Once again, Senator Collins and the ATA are using the same “playbook”.  We urge Congress to stop this unconscionable and dangerous deal-making at the expense and peril of the American public.

Finally, the rebuttal offered up by Mr. Graves is an analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).  ATRI is the research arm of the ATA located at the exact same address as the trucking industry trade association and whose board is comprised of industry executives.  This is hardly an objective, conflict-free, or credible scientific analysis on the impacts of gutting an important existing safety rule.

We will continue to fight the enactment of this anti-safety proposal.  This proposal will make our highways more dangerous and that’s why every major public health, consumer, safety and law enforcement group and the families who have lost loved ones in truck crashes oppose the Collins Amendment.  The end result of this David versus Goliath battle against the “who’s who list” of corporate America will have a profound and lasting impact on the safety of our roads.  We urge Congress to put public safety before industry profit.

Truck Safety Advocates Respond to the ATA’s Push to Remove Crash Data From the CSA Crash BASIC

Click here to read the press release.