Colorado Lowers Age Requirement To Drive Big Rigs In Interstate Commerce
Denver, Colorado – Colorado lawmakers have approved legislation that would effectively lower the age requirement for interstate Commercial Drivers Licenses from 21 to 18.
On February 21st, Governor Jared Polis (D) signed the new legislation into law. The bill, 19-018, passed the state Senate without a single no-vote and passed the state house 60-3 and one abstention.
The new legislation authorizes the state Department of Revenue to adopt rules that would allow 18-to-21-year-olds the opportunity to operate in interstate commerce as long as they hold a commercial driver license and such hauling is permitted by federal law.
However, federal law currently requires drivers to be at least 21-years-old to operate Class 8 trucks in interstate commerce, and the new Colorado law does is powerless to change that. Existing Colorado law does allow for younger drivers to operate in intrastate commerce.
Many trucking stakeholders such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) have, and continue to support, the lowering of the federally allowed interstate commercial big rig driving age from 21 to 18.
ATA estimates the trucking industry is needing an additional 50,000 truck drivers to meet current demand. As freight grows, as it is projected to over the next decade, ATA says the problem is only going to worsen. It projects a shortfall of more than 150,000 drivers by 2024.
Sen. Ray Scott, a Republican from Mesa County who sponsored the legislation, said he believes this is the kind of measure that will help alleviate such a shortage of willing and available truck drivers. “The industry is asking for a change like this because many times, young people have already begun their career by the time they are 21 and this will get a younger generation in the industry sooner,” Scott said.
In a recent interview with Transport Topics, Sen. Scott expressed he believed young people out of high school should not be deprived of “kind of a cool trade” like truck driving. “A whole lot of people come out of high school these days and they don’t have the funding to go to college [or] they don’t want to go to college. They want to get trained and start driving at 18 years old and they can’t do it. They pick another trade before they’re 21 and we’ve lost them,” he told the trucking executive news outlet.
Sen. Scott identified younger veterans as another source of potential new recruits. “You’ve got a 19-year-old who comes out of the United States Army who’s been trained and qualified but tries to go work for a trucking company and he’s told ‘Sorry, we’d love to have you, but …’ ” Scott told Transport Topics.
Still, the idea of 18-year-olds behind-the-wheel of a big rig is concerning to many, including many professional truckers. Though federal law would have to be changed in order to allow younger drivers to operate big rigs across state lines, Sen. Scott said he hopes Colorado’s new legislation will encourage other states to move ahead with similar actions.
“Hopefully, this is an impetus to get other states to get on the bandwagon and get this done,” Scott said.