The laws regarding what age someone has to be in order to obtain a driver’s license vary by state. In South Carolina, those who are age 17 or older are eligible for a full, unrestricted license. However, federal law forbids commercial license holders under the age of 21 from hauling freight across state lines. Congress is currently considering a bill to reduce that age to 18.
The DRIVE-Safe Act
The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act (DRIVE-Safe Act) proposes that commercial motor vehicle drivers under the age of 21 be allowed to drive for interstate commerce once they complete an apprenticeship program, as defined in the bill. The legislation is timely, given the national shortage of truck drivers. According to a report by the American Trucking Association, the industry would need to hire approximately 90,000 truckers per year for the next decade to meet growing demands.
Proponents argue it will help solve the shortage, but critics of the bill express concern over the public safety implications of allowing young drivers – who lack experience and have higher fatal crash rates than adults – to drive commercial semi-trucks across state lines.
Young Drivers Require Training
If the bill is passed, it will provide job opportunities to many young adults and potentially solve the shortage problem. However, employers will also have to provide training to ensure that these new workers are prepared to handle the hazards associated with the trucking industry.
Many also point to the additional training that is necessary to ensure that young truck drivers not only know how to drive safely, but also know how to properly move, lift, and interact with their environment.
Truck Driver Apprenticeship Program
The bill proposes that commercial drivers under age 21 complete an apprenticeship program, which is defined as a 120-hour probationary period followed by a 280-hour probationary period. Each probationary period is designed to train the worker on certain areas of competency, such as:
- Complying with hours of service (HOS) rules
- Coupling and uncoupling procedures
- Evening driving
- Fueling procedures
- Interstate driving
- Lane control
- Light city traffic
- Maneuvering in close quarters
- Pre-trip inspections
- Rural two-lane driving
- Safety awareness
- Speed and space management
- Turns (right and left)
- Weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems
Once they have completed the apprenticeship program under the tutelage of an experienced driver, their employer must determine whether they are adequately competent in all the areas listed in the DRIVE-Safe Act.
Restrictions on Young Drivers
The bill restricts apprentices from transporting hazardous materials during the 120-hour probationary period. During both the 120- and the 280-hour periods, apprentices must go no more than 65 miles per hour both while manually pressing on the gas and while operating under adaptive cruise control. They may also only operate commercial motor vehicles that have:
- Automatic/automatic manual transmissions
- Active braking collision mitigation systems
- Forward-facing event capture
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Injured Truck Drivers
If you were injured in a trucking accident, contact a Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. We represent injured workers throughout South Carolina from our six offices located conveniently throughout the state. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 803-929-3600 or 866-881-8623.
We proudly represent injured workers across South Carolina, including those in the communities of Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.