ATA Calls for Graduated Licensing to Combat Driver Shortage

With driver shortages being a repetitive issue in the U.S. trucking industry, The American Trucking Association (ATA) is floating a graduated licensing program as an idea on how the federal government can make reforms to try and mitigate the labor problem. The ATA is calling for a change to a graduated licensing system, much like what you see for normal civilian motorists. In graduated licensing, motorists may start learning to drive at 15 or 16 with a learner’s permit and eventually get a full license, in most states at age 18. To get a commercial drivers license (CDL) as an interstate driver, however, the age limit is 21.

A graduated CDL program could work in much the same way as graduated licensing for motorists, allowing “provisional” license holders to drive only with a CDL-licensed driver present or restricting the hours, routes and conditions they may operate a truck. That would gradually allow an apprentice to gain experience behind the wheel before becoming fully licensed at 21. A change in licensing standards not only could help trucking operators recruit younger drivers but allow them to create a career path from high school or vocational school to opportunities in trucking.

There are plenty of issues beyond licensing requirements when it comes to recruiting and using younger drivers. A leading one is likely to be the availability and the cost of insurance for . The an 18-year-old driving an 80,000-pound truck. However, eventually younger drivers will have to replace today’s rapidly aging drivers. The average U.S. truck driver is over 50 years old. With the right controls, an apprenticeship program that teaches trucking as a trade, not just a job, may be part of a solution.