Tenney introduces WHEEL Act to ease regulatory burden on interstate trucking, address growing trucking industry driver shortage

Rep. Claudia Tenney

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-22) introduced the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor (WHEEL) Act, H.R. 3889, to ease the regulatory burden on interstate trucking. This legislation will expand a pilot program to study the safety implications of allowing individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate trucks across state lines. Under current federal law, individuals in this age group may obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in each of the 48 contiguous states; however, they are prohibited from operating trucks across state lines.

“We already allow qualified drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to drive from Long Island to Buffalo without a problem, but prohibit them from crossing the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey into New York City. The WHEEL Act is a common sense measure that would ease the burden on these truck operators by sensibly expanding the interstate truck driving pilot program authorized by the FAST Act, while maintaining strong standards for participants. The trucking industry moves most of our nation’s freight tonnage and is vital to the health of our economy.  However, by 2024, estimates suggest that the shortage throughout the country could be as many as 175,000 unfilled driving positions. With a truck driving shortage that is only expected to grow more acute over time, we should take all reasonable steps to address the issue including passing the WHEEL Act,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney.

The FAST Act, which Congress passed in 2016 with bipartisan support, created a pilot program to study the safety implications of allowing individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate trucks across state lines. However, this pilot program has been limited by the strict requirements that participants be veterans or active duty between the ages of 18 and 21, a demographic that has been challenging to recruit in statistically significant numbers for the purposes of this study. To address this issue, the WHEEL Act would broaden the criteria for participation in the pilot program.

In a letter of support, Chris Spear, President & CEO, American Trucking Associations stated, “The bill, which would amend the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to allow for an expansion of participants within the FAST Act’s younger commercial driver license (CDL) holder pilot program, is a critical step towards addressing the trucking industry’s growing driver shortage. ATA supports this proposed change, and applauds your [Rep. Tenney’s] efforts to address this very important issue facing the trucking industry. We look forward to working with you [Rep. Tenney] to enact this much needed legislation.”

“I applaud Rep. Tenney for introducing legislation to address this critical threat to commerce throughout the United States.  Forcing young people to wait until they are 21 years of age before they enter the tractor trailer driving profession discourages them from entering the industry at a critical time in their career decision process. There is currently a shortage of 40,000 to 60,000 CDLA drivers nationally with this number potentially expanding to 200,000 by 2020 according to some estimates.  Rep. Tenney’s common sense approach to this issue can safely and practically improve this critical situation in a manner beneficial for the industry, for the consumer and quite literally for all involved,” said Terry R. Wood, President & CEO, Willow Run Foods, Inc.

“The Trucking industry faces a severe shortage of qualified commercial drivers. A contributing factor for the shortage is the gap between an individual graduating from high school and their ability to begin a career as a professional driver. With the appropriate training, many of these individuals would safely be able to operate commercial vehicles. We appreciate Rep. Tenney’s recognition of this issue and look forward to continuing to work with her to address the commercial driver shortage,” said Kendra L. Hems, President, Trucking Association of New York.

The updated requirements set by the WHEEL Act will remain stringent – participants must not only possess a valid CDL, they must also have a clean driving record and satisfy the added requirement of completing an additional form of training or certification, as determined by the Secretary of Transportation, that demonstrates aptitude, safety, and suitability. Expanding this pilot program safely through the WHEEL Act will enable a larger pool of qualified individuals to participate and begin their career as a CDL operator earlier, helping to end the driver shortage facing the trucking industry.

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