The DRIVE-Safe Act was discussed in committee hearings held over the last couple of weeks in both the House and Senate. On the Senate side, at least three Senators raised the younger driver issue during the testimony of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration head Ray Martinez. All three expressed support for the agency moving forward with efforts to expand allowing these drivers to participate in interstate commerce. While the Administrator could not take a position on the DRIVE-Safe Act, he did say that this rule, which dates from the 1930’s, deserves to be examined further to determine if it is still necessary.
The discussion at the House hearing unfortunately was not as positive. The hearing examined the state of the trucking industry but the witness list was stacked with groups that do not support the DRIVE-Safe Act such as the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA), safety groups and the Teamsters. While the opposition from OOIDA and the Teamsters is cloaked around safety concerns, their real opposition comes from their view that adding new drivers will erode the earning potential of current drivers (and Teamster members.) This shortsighted view ignores the long-term need to bring new drivers into an aging industry to ensure that freight can continue to move in this country. While Chris Spear, the President of the American Trucking Associations strongly defended the bill, his view did not seem to be shared by senior Democratic leaders on the Committee.