On May 15, 2019, the Alabama legislature passed a bill that would lower the age a driver can apply for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for intrastate truck driving from 21 to 18. The Senate passed the bill 24-0 while the House voted 96-1 in favor of passage. Governor Kay Ivey is expected to sign the bill with an effective date of February 17, 2020. Hawaii is now the only state that imposes a minimum age of 21 to obtain an intrastate CDL.
A possible solution to the current trucker shortage
Representative Dexter Grimley, the sponsor of the bill, feels that lowering the driving age by three years will create several thousand new jobs. It will also improve business opportunities for Alabama companies that rely on truckers to transport goods. Grimley feels the lifting of the restriction will allow businesses in Alabama to compete more evenly with nearby states that have not had the restriction for many years.
Supporters of the bill also hope it will provide good-paying work for younger generations of Americans who want to begin their career as soon as possible after graduating from high school. With the current age restriction in place, most settle into other careers before they reach age 21. This is why the theory is that this legislation will help alleviate the truck driver shortage.
Some restrictions still apply
Because this bill applies to intrastate travel only, drivers aged 18, 19, or 20 still cannot transport goods over state lines. They also cannot transport anything that falls into the category of hazardous materials. Like all drivers, young people with a CDL must learn and abide by all regulations imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Reaction to the new legislation about the intrastate trucking age requirement
Virginia Banister, Executive Director of the Alabama Beverage Association, states that the industry relies heavily on commercial drivers to deliver goods across the state. She is hopeful that the new law will open up a larger pool of qualified applicants. The president of Manufacture Alabama, George Clark, also states that a lack of available drivers has devastating consequences for some businesses. Other organizations supporting the bill include:
- Alabama Farmers Federation
- Alabama Retail Association
- Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives
- Alabama Trucking Association
- National Federation of Independent Businesses, Alabama Chapter
Not every organization related to the commercial trucking industry is on board with the upcoming changes. The Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association, for example, sent a letter to the Alabama legislature ahead of the vote to make its opposition known. The organization cites safety concerns among younger drivers as its main concern. It also feels that addressing issues leading to the high turnover of commercial drivers would be a better approach than allowing 18 to 20-year-olds to drive intrastate.
While not everyone agrees on the solution to the driver shortage, the legislature, trade organizations, and safety groups are certain to keep a close eye on driver performance once the bill takes effect next February.
All drivers need the right truck insurance.
Regardless of a driver’s age, it’s crucial that they carry the right big rig insurance or truck insurance. We can help you get the coverage you need to protect yourself. Get started with your truck insurance quotes by filling out our online form, giving us a call, or messaging us on LiveChat.