Driver Shortages & Supply System Problems — Is Lowering the CDL Age Limit a Partial Answer?


It doesn’t take much thought to notice that getting supplies into stores these days is a hit or miss proposition. Some say one of the issues in getting supplies to market is a lack of truck drivers. Even before COVID hit, some in the trucking industry were pushing to lower the age of those who can get behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Since the pandemic, the cry has grown louder.

Many are blaming much of the current supply chain challenges on the lack of commercial truck drivers. The driver shortage — they say — needs correcting and a push is being made to let people under the age of 21 get their commercial drivers license (CDL).

That may not be exactly true. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (BLS) says the driver shortage is no greater today than it was before COVID. The department notes there is just no evidence to indicate things are all that different.

The reason most don’t want younger drivers on the road in many, many ton vehicles is because young, inexperienced drivers have a higher rate of crashes than those that are older and more experienced. In fact, the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 20 is motor vehicle crashes.

All this leads us to a pilot program that was launched in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It is working to train teens as commercial truck drivers. The worry there is that as truck drivers age, the chance of them having a fatal crash decreases.

Studies show that CMV drivers under age 19 are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. CMV drivers 19 to 20 are six times more likely. Younger drivers — the study shows — are involved in a great rate of crashes until they reach the age of 27 when that figure starts to reverse.

That’s the whys of why teen drivers large trucks may not be a good idea.

Part two of the question has to do with whether there is actually a real shortage of drivers. And is the supposed shortage helping to cause supply chain issues. A study by the BLS says no.

In fact, it found there is no real shortage of drivers. The U.S. Department of Labor says there are over 450,000 commercial drivers licenses issued each year. That’s more than enough to fill truck driver openings.

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