Hunter: Driving American trucking job opportunities forward
Everyone who works hard should have the opportunity to succeed; this is one of the founding promises of our nation. Unfortunately, we see many young Americans faced with the choice of either taking on tens of thousands of dollars in college debt or entering into a job market with grim prospects for untrained workers. The solution is equipping young graduates with the training and practical job-performance tools they need to thrive in today’s workforce.
It is for this reason I am introducing the DRIVE Safe Act to help expand economic opportunity for young people by providing them access to a high-paying job without crippling them with school debt. The DRIVE Safe Act aims to make jobs in the trucking industry more accessible and appealing to younger drivers. This industry provides access to economic security with average annual wages for private fleet drivers exceeding $62,000 a year and with senior drivers making $75,000 to $80,000. Compare this to the average American worker earning $50,000. While this is a good wage, it is becoming more and more difficult for today’s families to meet all their needs with this type of earning ceiling, especially in high cost-of-living areas like my congressional district in San Diego County.
The DRIVE Safe Act addresses the unfortunate — and perhaps unintended — consequence of federal restrictions imposed on young truckers that makes it difficult to fill these good paying jobs. Currently, while most states allow for issuing commercial driver’s licenses at the age of 18, federal law restricts drivers under the age of 21 from crossing state lines, even when those borders are just miles apart. My bill would eliminate this barrier while, at the same time, increase safety on the road by also providing an enhanced and intensive vehicle operation and mentor-apprentice training program to drivers under the age of 21.
Contrary to the myth that we are in the advent of autonomous Mack trucks, driverless trucking is not the job killer we have to worry about in the near or mid-term. Existing policies, however, are making it nearly impossible to hire the 890,000 driving jobs currently needed over the next decade in order to keep pace with growth and demand for freight transportation. In other words, not only do we currently have no plan to man a full trucking workforce, we actually have federal policies in place preventing us from doing so. Failure to act will lead to higher shipping prices and a loss of competitiveness and productivity for American businesses.
My bill, supported by the American Trucking Associations, the National Retail Federation and the International Foodservice Distributors Association, addresses this problem and helps facilitate this need. With this common-sense approach, young adults can immediately step into career-paying jobs that would provide the economic stability which might be otherwise unattainable or unavailable. A good, stable job provides a lifeline against the range of challenges for new job seekers and the trucking industry has jobs to fill.
While Congress is devoting a significant amount of time and funding toward fixing our nation’s infrastructure, unless we help get young people in those empty seats behind the wheel, we will not come close to reaching our full potential. A fully manned trucking force is a vital cog in the continued regrowth of the domestic American economy. We can improve the lives of many young Californians, providing them with opportunities for advancement, and enhance the economy by eliminating the obstacles currently preventing the trucking industry from alleviating its workforce shortage. I look forward to bipartisan support for the DRIVE Safe Act when introduced and will work diligently as is makes its way through the legislative process. America’s young workers deserve no less.
Congressman Duncan D. Hunter represents California’s 50th Congressional District consisting of San Diego and Riverside Counties.