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Trucking industry eyes young truckers to help with driver shortage

Every day, truckers across the country are transporting different goods where they need to go.

For Wyatt Kinard, it is sod.

“I love it,” Kinard said. “Just something about hauling sod or agriculture materials that I just enjoy. It’s easy. I can do my own thing. Nobody bothers me.”

Kinard, 20, is a trained and licensed truck driver in South Carolina, but because he is not yet 21 years old, he is not able to drive even a mile over the state line.

“I could probably make a significant amount more [money] … if I was able to haul out of state,” Kinard said.

Nearly every state allows drivers under 21 years old to operate a large commercial truck within their state, according to the American Trucking Associations, but the federal government only allows truckers older than 21 years old to cross state boundaries.

Eliminating the federal age requirement to drive in interstate commerce would not just help provide more opportunities for truckers like Kinard, it would also help address the country’s truck driver shortage, the ATA says.

Currently, the industry is facing about a 60,000 driver shortfall, according to the ATA.

“It doesn’t really make a lot of sense if you have qualified drivers who cannot drive across state lines,” Republican Rep. Nancy Mace said.

Mace wants to get rid of the federal rule.

She is co-sponsoring a bill in Congress called the DRIVE Safe Act that would allow truckers between 18 and 20 years old to cross state lines and participate in interstate commerce.

Mace said the legislation would also help improve safety and training with apprenticeship programs.

“We want to make sure we give every opportunity for folks to have and earn a good living in this country, and this is a great way to do it,” Mace said.

But not everyone believes changing the law is a safe choice.

“We don’t want teenagers to go from high school hallways to high-speed highways,” Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said.

Drivers 16 to 19 years old are 3 times as likely to be in a fatal vehicle crashthan drivers over 20 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And as for a truck driver shortage, Chase said it is a problem the trucking industry created for itself.

She said more people would be interested in truck driving as a career if the industry offered higher salaries, better benefits, and more secure trucks.

“I think that most people realize that truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations in our country. And to entice someone to take on that risk, the industry should make their trucks safer,” Chase said.

Chase said Advocates supports a bill in Congress called the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act instead of the DRIVE Safe Act because it would require new trucks to have safety technology like automatic emergency braking.

The DRIVE Safe Act has the support of over 25 U.S. senators and nearly 80 House members, and over 120 organizations representing all levels of the supply chain are urging Congress to act.

For now, Kinard will be waiting it out within the confines of his home state.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo! News

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