$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

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION, ON RELEASE OF FAST ACT CONFERENCE REPORT

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

ON RELEASE OF FAST ACT CONFERENCE REPORT

ARLINGTON, VA (December 1, 2015) –The Senate and House Conferees today released a conference report for the surface transportation reauthorization bill, H.R. 22. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, as it is now known, removed several dangerous policies, improved upon other anti-safety measures, but 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; their hard work is evidenced by the positive changes made to the final bill.

Sections limiting shipper and broker liability in hiring decisions, allowing greater exemptions to hours of service requirements for classes of truck drivers, and prohibiting states from providing further break protections for drivers were ultimately removed from the final bill. These provisions only benefitted private interests at the expense of public safety. We are glad that reason prevailed, and that the Conferees advanced the interests of their constituents rather than the interests of corporations.

Language regarding the minimum level of insurance required by large trucks, crash weighting, and teen truckers was also improved. Conferees removed some of the overly burdensome hurdles that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) would have to go through in reviewing the required level of minimum insurance for large trucks. They also decided that any crash weighting determination should be reviewed first by the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), before requiring the FMCSA to engage in a costly ineffective review process. Additionally, 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.

Regrettably, measures allowing state and industry specific exemptions are still embedded in the bill. Weight exemptions for logging, milk products, and natural gas vehicles will endanger our roads and will set dangerous precedents for future weight exemptions. It is time for Congress to close the backdoor to nationwide weight increase and stop enacting these corporate earmarks.

Other troublesome provisions that remain include hiding Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores from public view and implementing a “beyond compliance” point system into CSA scores. Concealing scores that are collected by taxpayer-funded law enforcement officers on tax-payer-funded roads essentially robs the motoring public of two things: the ability to access data that they paid for and public safety.

Overall, the enhancements to the final bill shows that the Truck Safety Coalition’s concerns were heard, and we are thankful to the Members of Congress and their staffs that listened.

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