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New bill may allow CMV drivers under 21 to travel interstate

Oklahoma residents should know that currently, truck drivers under the age of 21 cannot travel interstate. This may change if a certain bill, called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, is passed. Also known as the DRIVE-Safe Act, it was introduced in February 2019 and aims to create an apprenticeship program for the training of truckers under 21.

The program would require these truckers to undergo a probationary period where they must complete 400 hours of driving, at least 240 hours of which would be with a trucker 21 or older in the passenger seat. Several groups oppose the bill, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Truck Safety Coalition.

The OOIDA’s executive vice president asserts that the driver shortage prompting the bill is actually a myth. The Truck Safety Coalition’s president says that according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the crash rate for 18- to 20-year-old CMV drivers traveling intrastate is higher than that for other truckers. It would be even riskier for these young drivers to travel in other states where the routes are less familiar.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on the bill on Feb. 4, 2020. The hearing also addressed concerns regarding hours-of-service regulations and the use of speed limiters.

Concerns over the new bill are legitimate when one considers the number of truck accidents that even experienced drivers cause. Truckers are no stranger to drowsy or distracted driving, for example. As for those who are injured at the hands of a negligent trucker, they may be able to file a claim against the trucking company. With a lawyer at their side, they may strive for a fair amount in monetary and non-monetary damages, litigating as a last resort.