WASHINGTON – Federal lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow drivers ages 18 to 21 with a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive a truck across state lines.

Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-California) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana) introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act to address a shortage of commercial truck drivers. Motor carriers have been challenged to attract and retain qualified drivers. The International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) expressed support for the legislation.

“This is a common-sense proposal that will open enormous opportunities for the 18-21-year-old population, giving them access to a high-paying profession free of the debt burden that comes with a four-year degree,” said Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO. “Moreover, this bill would strengthen training programs beyond current requirements to ensure safety and that drivers are best prepared.”

Under the legislation, young CDL holders may begin a rigorous two-step program of additional training with sequential probationary periods. Requirements include at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab. The bill would require all trucks used in the training in the program to be equipped with safety technology such as active braking collision mitigation systems, video event capture and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or lower.

“This legislation paves the way for new drivers to sustain a safe and efficient supply chain for the more than 1 million restaurants and foodservice outlets in the US,” said Mark Allen, president and CEO of IFDA. “This bill creates opportunity while reinforcing a culture of safety far and above current standards to provide the next generation of drivers with the critical skills they need to operate a truck in the 21st century.”

Stakeholders say a shortage in drivers has disproportionally impacted the foodservice distribution industry. Additionally, laws governing commercial drivers allow individuals to obtain a CDL at age 18 but prohibit those drivers from moving goods across state lines until age 21. In a joint statement, the IFDA and ATA said the “…restriction on interstate deliveries is particularly problematic in regions like the greater D.C. metro area where an emerging driver would be prohibited from making a quick trip between Arlington, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland. But the same driver could haul a load from Arlington to Norfolk, Virginia, a more than six-hour drive roundtrip.”

“Chain restaurants and their thousands of small business franchisees rely on a stable system of distribution for their food supply chains,” David French, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) said in a statement. “America’s long-haul trucking industry provides the vital distribution networks that serve the chain restaurant industry and so many other sectors of our economy, but they need a steady stream of new talent to enter the profession in order to function. The DRIVE-Safe Act will go a long way toward addressing our nation’s current truck driver shortage.”