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Congress Holds Hearing on Truck Driver Shortage


On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a Hearing on “Under Pressure: The State of Trucking in America.” The surface transportation authorization expires September 30, 2020, and House and Senate leaders are working to write a new bill. Issues discussed during the hearing included the under 21 CDL interstate driver bill, the CDL driver shortage/training, hours of service and side guards for trucks.

Chris Spear, President & CEO of the American Trucking Associations, spoke against the “Stop Underrides Act” (S. 665, H.R. 1511) which would require new side underride protection for trailers and straight trucks with a gross vehicle weight over 10,000 pounds. PMAA also is opposed to the bill. Mr. Spear noted that the solution is easier said than done. The added weight and structural integrity of trailers will need to be considered. Secondly, Spear said that vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity could possibly be a solution so that cars could detect a tractor trailer and deploy the automatic emergency braking system before a possible collision.

Meanwhile, the short haul exception was also discussed during the hearing. PMAA has argued that expanding the short haul exception to 150 air miles and increase the on-duty driver time from 12 to 14 hours could be a short-term fix to address the driver shortage. Recently, Rep. Crawford (R-AR), along with several other GOP lawmakers, sent a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asking it to extend the 100-mile radius short haul driver exception to 150 miles to reflect the maximum distance most CDL drivers in the petroleum industry travel to load supply. Extending the short haul exception would also exempt CDL drivers from the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate if they stay within 150 air miles. PMAA fully supported Rep. Crawford’s letter and made this an important issue during PMAA’s DC Conference and “Day on the Hill.”

Finally, the hearing focused on “The DRIVE Safe Act” (H.R. 1374; S. 569 ) which would allow drivers 18 and older to operate across state lines if they meet rigorous training requirements — at least 400 hours of on-duty time with 240 hours of driving time, with an experienced driver training them. Training would also be restricted to trucks equipped with active braking systems, video monitoring systems and speed limiters set to 65 mph or slower. ATA President Spear noted that 48 states already allow under 21 truckers to drive on highways within state lines without any special training beyond obtaining a CDL. Although drivers of petroleum would not be covered under the Drive-safe Act, (since drivers must be 21 to qualify for a hazardous materials certification), PMAA supports the bill because it would expand the overall driver pool.


Transportation Federal

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