WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With thousands of trucking jobs sitting unfilled, advocates are calling on Congress to soften regulations they believe hurt recruitment while industry executives say the actual problem is job access.
The issue took center stage at a House subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Lawmakers are hearing from stakeholders before they draft updates to regulations.
Chris Spear of the American Trucking Associations argued Congress should lower the commercial driving age to 18 to fill the hiring hole.
"I think if we can teach someone to steer an aircraft carrier, we can teach them how to cross state lines in a Class 8," he said. "This is a step towards safety, not away."
But Todd Spencer, who represents the 160,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, disagreed. He said younger drivers are statistically less safe.
"You have to have experienced, knowledgeable drivers," he said. "There is no substitute when it comes to safety."
He urged Congress to instead pass reforms that improve the work conditions of drivers already on the road, including raising wages and reducing the number of hours they work.
"This has to change if trucking is to attract and retain the good drivers we need," he said.
Lawmakers say they will draft a five-year plan to refresh or change the rules of the road before the current law expires next year, saying they will conduct a comprehensive review of the responsibilities that need to be met. The subcommittee will hold additional hearings before it starts writing the new rules.