Congress eyes truck driver shortage solution

A truck driver shortage that’s plaguing American businesses could be solved with the passage of new legislation, which would change a regulation that prevents anyone under the age of 21 from being able to drive commercial vehicles across state lines.

Rep. Duncan Hunter introduced the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would open cross-state truck driving positions to 18-year-olds in March. Hunter said he anticipates the Republican-controlled House will pass the standalone legislation when it goes to a vote.

“By federal statute, you can drive from San Diego to Sacramento, California, 500 miles,” the California Republican said during a FOX Business interview with Stuart Varney on Wednesday. “You can’t do that as an 18- or 19-year-old who’s gotten their commercial driver’s license, but you can drive 50 miles from San Diego to Arizona.”

Under current law, 18- to 21-year-old truck drivers are also prohibited from driving freight intrastate if it will eventually cross state lines. But industry leaders say they’re desperate for more labor if they want to keep up with demand.

In 2016, the industry was short more than 36,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations, which expected that number to surpass 63,000 in 2018. By 2026, it could grow to 174,000. The trade group said the industry would need to hire an additional 900,000 drivers by 2026 -- or about 90,000 each year.

“This affects everything from petroleum to building supplies to food to clothing,” Hunter said.