Bill to let teen truckers travel out of state raises concern

The Senate Commerce Transportation and Safety Subcommittee held a hearing in February 2020 where numerous groups raised concerns about issues in the trucking industry. One of these issues was the introduction of a bill in 2019 that would allow CDL holders under 21 to travel outside of their state. West Virginia, like all states except Hawaii, allows 18- to 20-year-old CDL holders to travel only intrastate.

During the hearing, various spokespeople from groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Truck Safety Coalition raised objections against the bill. The executive vice president of the OOIDA, for instance, said that the bill is intended to fight a driver shortage that, in reality, does not exist. Any measure meant to address a shortage will only compound actual problems in the industry.

The president of the Truck Safety Coalition argued that the bill may only wind up increasing the already high rate of crashes among truckers aged 18 to 20. Teen truckers are inexperienced and bound to have trouble in unfamiliar states.

The bill does have a provision for this. It proposes to set up an apprenticeship program where truckers under 21 complete 400 driving hours before heading interstate. A trucker 21 or older would be required to accompany the driver for at least 240 of those hours.

There are a number of ways that truckers, whatever their age or level of experience, can cause a crash. They may exceed the hours-of-service regulations, committing log book violations as a result, and crash because they were drowsy. Alternatively, they may distract themselves with their phone or other technology. Victims may want to know if they have grounds for a claim against the employer of the guilty trucker, and to this end, they might schedule a legal evaluation.

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