At the 2023 Truckload Carriers Association Annual Convention, the topic of allowing truck drivers 18-20 years old to drive interstate cargo was brought up during a fireside chat between some of the largest carriers. While the Biden Administration and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) are pushing hard for legislation to pass that would allow the lowering of the national CDL endorsement minimum, one corporate leader is telling stakeholders to hold that thought.
Knight-Swift president and CEO David Jackson was part of a fireside chat Monday, March 6, with Mike Gerdin of Heartland Express, Derek Leathers of Werner Enterprises, and moderator Rob Penner of Bison Transport that discussed the whys and why-nots of allowing the older teenagers to become CDL drivers. On one hand, it would help to fill in the gaps made by driver retirements as the fleet’s median age approaches five decades, while on the other hand, it could possibly create a driver oversupply that would cause driver pay rates and paychecks to drop severely.
More drivers might cause slim pay rates to go below the poverty level
As we all know from Econ-I class, an oversupply of an item without the demand for it causes the value of the said item to drop. As the freight market is still lean on freight loads at the moment, a sudden surge of drivers, let’s say some of that 80,000 driver shortage figure we keep hearing about, would cause individual driver mileage to tank.
That would cause the paychecks of said individual drivers to shrink, causing those drivers to hang up their keys and seek employment in an entirely different industry. That’s already an imminent issue discovered in the recent FreightWaves Owner/Operator survey as the O/Os are not able to compete with the enterprise carriers at the current low-paying freight rates.
Would you trust the current teenager with a 40-ton tractor-trailer?
Another thing is the safety of these younger drivers, still likely more worried about their social media presence than watching the road. “Unsafe truckers” was a primary reason given for that $2 million dollar insurance policy every truck cab has on it now.
You can bet that the nuclear verdict arsenal is ready to launch the first time there is a serious incident with the younger generation. Weighing the need for more drivers working versus improving the current state of being of the driver pool is something that company owners will have to consider.
Some companies have embraced the pilot program, and are having some good results. It’s a delicate situation for company owners to decide if they want to gamble on the next generation earlier than ever before.
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