Statement of the Truck Safety Coalition on Pilot Program Proposal to Allow Drivers Ages 18-20 to Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce

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

    Statement of the Truck Safety Coalition on Pilot Program Proposal to Allow Drivers Ages 18-20 to Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce

    The Truck Safety Coalition, and our volunteers, who are truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, oppose the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposal to allow teenagers to operate trucks across state lines. It’s not just unnecessary, it’s downright dangerous.

    Lowering the age required to operate a big-rig across state lines will do nothing to reverse the worsening death toll from truck-related crashes, which are up 41 percent since 2009. In all likelihood, it will make the situation worse.

    Based on 2017 federal crash data analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 18 to 19 are 2.3 times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older (up to age 84) to be in a fatal crash and nearly 3.5 times more likely to be involved in any police reported crash. Moreover, a recent report analyzing 10 years of fatal crash data involving teen drivers from the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed two other disconcerting data points about 18 to 20 year old drivers: 1) 19-year-olds accounted for the greatest number of teen drivers killed during this 10-year period, followed by 20- and 18-year olds; and, 2) older teens (18- 20-years-old) were twice as likely as their younger counterparts to be involved in a fatal crash between midnight and 6 a.m. These facts should give lawmakers in Congress and regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) pause before moving forward with proposals that promote the pecuniary interests of a few companies while exposing the rest of us to the dangers of driving alongside teen truckers.

    Sadly, this seemingly innocuous call for public comment will likely result in a pilot program which will inevitably become a permanent policy because it has become clear that facts take a back seat at the U.S. Department of Transportation to the priorities of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). This was evidenced by the Department’s acquiescence on the California meal and rest break issue, and will continue to be evidenced as they ignore their own data in advancing industry-backed changes to roll back hours of service regulations. Unfortunately, this seems to be an issue that starts at the top as even U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Chao has eschewed facts from the U.S. Department of Labor, which she once managed, for misinformation and myth created by and for the ATA. On an October 2018 appearance on Fox Business, Secretary Chao made no mention of a September 2018 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that dispelled the notion of a truck driver shortage, but, instead parroted the ATA-line that there is a truck driver shortage, which derives from a 2005 study by the American Trucking Associations.

    It is time for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Chao and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Martinez to stop just saying that safety is a top priority of the Department, and start acting like it. No matter how often they may say it, the actions that the DOT and the FMCSA have taken, including this most recent one, have done nothing to improve truck safety.

      $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.

        ###