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Senate hearing considers merits of teen truck driver bill

On Feb. 4, federal lawmakers heard opposing testimony on the merits of a bipartisan bill that would let commercial drivers under the age of 21 operate trucks on interstate routes going through Texas and across the U.S. Currently, commercial drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 are restricted from crossing state lines.

During the hearing, which was convened by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations said that the proposed bill would make the trucking industry safer. The legislation, called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act, or the DRIVE-Safe Act, would implement an apprenticeship program for commercial drivers under the age of 21. After completing 400 hours of probation, including a minimum of 240 hours of CMV driving time, drivers in the program would be allowed to travel interstate routes.

While the ATA and other proponents claimed the change is a safe way to address a perceived commercial driver shortage, opponents, such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Truck Safety Coalition, said there are already enough drivers in the commercial trucking industry. Meanwhile, some lawmakers urged the industry to study the safety record of teen truck drivers in the 49 states that allow them to obtain commercial licenses. Some statistics show a higher crash rate for commercial drivers between the ages of 18 and 20.

Truck accidents can be caused by a number of factors, including driver inexperience, distracted driving, driver fatigue and speeding. Texas motorists who are injured in a truck accident might opt to contact a personal injury attorney for help. The attorney may be able to prove the truck driver is legally liable for the crash and help victims obtain a settlement that covers their medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish and other crash-related losses.

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