The Truck Safety Coalition is strongly opposed to the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor Act (WHEEL Act). This legislation is a misguided attempt to address a perceived shortage of truck drivers, which is, in actuality, a driver retention and turnover problem. Allowing these demonstrably higher risk teen drivers to get behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound big rig will make our roads less safe and do nothing to address issues like entry-level driver training, unpaid detention time, and available and safe truck parking.
For one, the data demonstrates that younger drivers are more likely to crash than drivers who are older than 21 years of age. In 2013, all drivers ages 18-20 had a fatal crash involvement rate, per 100,000 licensed drivers, that was 66 percent higher than drivers who were age 21 years or older.
Supporters of the legislation note that people age 18-20 can obtain a commercial driver’s license to operate within a state, so therefore therefor these younger, less safe drivers should be able to operate across state lines as well. This ignores a troubling statistic: truck drivers, age 18-20, have crash rates that are four to six times higher than those of mature truck drivers are.
Permitting teen truckers on the road has been and continues to be rejected by the public. In 2001, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rejected lowering the age limit for commercial driver’s licenses because there was no proof that the safety performance of younger drivers would be anywhere close to that of older drivers. The proposal was also overwhelmingly rejected by those who responded to public comment period; with 96 percent of individuals, 88 percent of the truck drivers, and 86 percent of the motor carriers opposed to this.