There is a well-publicized manpower shortage of commercial truck drivers. The ranks have been depleted over the past five years with many more drivers set to make a decision to retire. This is a real issue in the very near future. Changes in the way states view owner-operators may change as well, similar to what has occurred in California. The state court has decided to class truck drivers as employees of their contracted shipper as opposed to being classified as private businesses as in the past. The answer according to Congress is allowing teens to possess Class A commercial drivers licenses to fill the gap.
Experience is a major issue with trucking safety, and history has shown that teen drivers generally do not possess the necessary judgement ability of a seasoned adult driver. The standard according to the current plan and new infrastructure bill implemented by Congress is letting anyone 18 years old or above behind the wheel of a big-rig if they can pass the driving exam. Critics say this is not a good decision due to the fact that statistics show teen drivers are involved in four times the number of auto accidents as those above 21 years of age regardless of the type of vehicle they are operating.
The number of 18-wheelers is already a transportation safety issue. There are many truck accidents that occur on a regular basis even with the current availability of seasoned operators. A standard vehicle or even a pick up truck is no physical match for a tractor-trailer, and the many fatalities suffered on the highway are a testament to this obvious reality.
The ultimate result will be unavoidable according to critics of the plan, including industry representatives. Not only could there be more injuries, but fatalities will assuredly increase as well due to a combination of more trucks on the road and younger drivers behind the wheel.