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New Bill Would Allow Teens to Drive Big Rigs

October 1, 2015 | Category: Truck Accidents | Share

Truck drivers are retiring faster than they are being replaced, and there is a very real shortage of commercial truck drivers that is growing worse by the year. Trucks move the bulk of goods throughout the U.S., and current drivers are limited in the number of hours they can drive per day and per week. To make sure that goods can be moved as needed, there must be more truck drivers.

One new proposed federal law aims to solve this problem by lowering the federal age limit for operating commercial trucks across state lines. While 48 states permit 18-year-olds to have CDLs and drive commercial motor vehicles according to a Bloomberg article, federal regulations currently limit interstate truck operation to people 21 and over. This could be changing as Bloomberg reports that Congress is considering going along with a proposal that’s being pushed by the U.S. trucking industry to lower the federal age limit to 18.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have spoken out against the proposal, arguing that there should be stricter limits imposed to prevent teen truckers rather than a relaxation of the rules.  Teens are the demographic group most likely to become involved in crashes, and letting them drive trucks that could weigh up to 80,000 pounds on interstate highways could be a recipe for disaster. 

If these teens do cause collisions, victims could pay the price with permanent injuries or their lives. Randall Spivey, a Ft. Myers personal injury attorney, is prepared to help those who have been harmed pursue claims not just against teen truckers but also against trucking companies that employ these inexperienced young motorists.

Teens Driving Big Rigs Could Increase the Risk of Truck Collisions

The data on teen truck drivers seems clear. In states where younger drivers are permitted to operate big rigs, these inexperienced youthful truckers are between four and six times as likely to become involved in fatal collisions as drivers who are 21-years-old according to the same Bloomberg article.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has also stated there is “unequivocal scientific evidence of a markedly elevated crash risk among people younger than 21 who drive large trucks.”  IIHS made this statement when speaking out against a proposal in 2002 to allow younger drivers to operate trucks. That initial proposal involved graduated licensing, so teens were introduced slowly into operating big rigs.

The new proposal now being considered does not impose graduated licensing, but instead would institute a six-month pilot program allowing 18-year-olds to cross state lines in large commercial trucks for the first time. The legislation is narrowly tailored to permit states to allow young truckers who already drive locally to cross borders if the states come to agreements to enter the FMCSA-supervised program.

Teens have less driving experience, in general, because of their young age and the limited time they have had a license. The teen brain is also not fully developed at age 18, and young people may be more likely to take unnecessary risks according to NPR’s report on a growing body of research. Opening up the door for teen truckers to do more traveling across state lines could have profound effects on road safety, even if it is only for a short pilot program.

Motorists need to be aware of the potential risks associated with inexperienced teen truckers and must understand their rights if an accident happens. A personal injury attorney serving Ft. Myers can provide representation to those who are harmed by a young teen in a big rig. Contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. today.

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