Republican Senators call for under-21 interstate truckers for 'driver shortage' relief

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, Nov. 5, 2021:

Group of Senators call on FMCSA to allow 18-year-old interstate truckers

U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), joined by nine other Republican Senators, urged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to lower the legal interstate driving age for CDL holders to 18 to help address the industry’s perceived “driver shortage.”

In a letter sent to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi on Nov. 3, the Senators said the perceived shortage coupled with the nation’s ongoing supply chain issues have been detrimental to the nation’s economy, noting that if not addressed, “inaction to grow America’s pool of truck drivers threatens to drive up shipping expenses, prolong delays, and burden already-strained consumers with additional costs.”

The letter said allowing 18-20-year-old CDL holders to drive interstate would “get American goods and services moving again.”

A wave of retiring drivers “exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, produces severe consequences in an already delicate supply chain,” the Senators said. “While American truckers do their part to help America recover from this devastating pandemic, the FMCSA should strongly consider allowing persons 18 years of age and older to operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce. Those seeking an alternative pathway to an expensive four-year degree may find the three-year gap between high school graduation and the eligible age for interstate trucking inhibitive. It should be our policy to aid and encourage these capable workers. We hope that under your leadership, this necessary reform will be made.”

Other Senators who signed the letter include Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), and Steve Daines (R-Montana).

FMCSA has previously proposed an under-21 pilot program, and the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in August includes a provision for an under-21 truck driver apprenticeship pilot program.

TA raises $100k for St. Christopher

TravelCenters of America announced it raised nearly $102,000 for the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund during its annual Register RoundUp campaign from July 1 through Sept. 6.

During the campaign, TA customers had the opportunity to round up their purchase to the nearest dollar, with proceeds going to SCF.

TA has supported SCF since 2010 and has raised nearly $3 million during that time.

“We are committed to supporting the SCF team in their noble work of providing crucial resources to professional drivers when they are in need,” said Jon Pertchik, CEO of TA. “We are pleased to serve these heroic men and women who sacrifice so much to keep our economy moving and thank our guests for their generosity in helping support professional drivers.”

Transflo partners on cross-country motorcycle ride to benefit Truckers Final Mile

Telematics provider Transflo partnered with endurance motorcycle rider and former truck driver Shawn Kitchen to sponsor a 5,000-mile ride across the U.S. and back to benefit Truckers Final Mile.

Truckers Final Mile is a nonprofit charity that helps reunite truck drivers with their families in the event of a major medical event or a severe injury while a driver is on the job, or help facilitate and cover the costs of transporting a driver’s body in the event of a loss of life. TFM assists in the travel, lodging, and ground transportation needs of drivers and their families when these crises happen, and it relies on financial donations to help perform these functions.

Kitchen’s ride, named the Transflo 5,000 in 5: A Coast-to-Coast Fundraiser to Support America’s Truck Drivers, will begin in Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday, Nov. 15.

On his 2016 Honda Gold Wing, Kitchen will drive to Dog Beach, California, near San Diego, over the next two days, and then turn around and ride back to Jacksonville, with the goal of returning by 5 p.m. local time on Friday, Nov. 19. To complete the journey in time, Kitchen will have to ride more than 1,000 miles, about 14 hours, per day on average. 

“We appreciate every fundraiser that occurs on our behalf,” said Robert Palm, who founded Truckers Final Mile in 2014. He manages TFM with a board of volunteers. “The families we assist are in some of the darkest hours in their life, and they’re the ones who benefit from these events. We’re thrilled that Shawn reached out and is doing this for our organization.”

Transflo’s sponsorship, in conjunction with Geotab, will fund expenses like fuel and lodging for his five-day trip. Individual donations to Truckers Final Mile can be made at truckersfinalmile.org, with the note “5Kin5” to designate it as part of the fundraiser. Kitchen hopes to raise $5,000 in donations for Truckers Final Mile — a dollar per mile.

Kitchen drove a truck professionally for 16 years, operating across various segments, including long-haul and regional dry van, tanker, flatbed, and local pickup and delivery. He then transitioned to various other roles, including driver trainer, recruiter, and safety manager, at multiple fleets. He’s now Director of Operations at a startup called True Load Time, which aims to document and reduce time drivers spend detained at shipper and receiver facilities.

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