Drivers in North Carolina can receive a commercial driver’s license as young as 18 years old, but they cannot travel interstate until they are 21. It is a rule held nationwide except by Hawaii, but now a certain bill proposes to change this rule and allow interstate travel to all truckers. Known as the DRIVE-Safe Act, the bipartisan bill was introduced in February 2019 and became the subject of a Senate Commerce Transportation and Safety Subcommittee hearing.
During that hearing, held in February 2020, several panelists raised objections to the bill. One argument was that truckers aged 18 to 20 see a higher crash rate than other truckers and that letting them drive long routes in states that are new to them will put them in even greater danger. Others are calling on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to carefully analyze crash rates among these teenage truckers before any decision is carried out on the bill.
The bill does propose an apprenticeship program, though, where truckers must complete probationary periods of 400 driving hours before traveling interstate. At least 240 of these hours are to be completed under the supervision of a truck driver age 21 or older. Supporters of the bill include the CEO of the American Trucking Association, who called the bill responsible and safety-minded.
Whether or not the bill passes, the problem of improperly trained drivers will likely continue to be an ongoing one. Those who are injured at the hands of a negligent driver may file a claim against the trucking company to be reimbursed for their losses. These might range from medical expenses to lost wages and future lost income due to a disability. Victims may want a lawyer to assess the case in light of North Carolina’s strict rule of contributory negligence.