On July 21, 2015 The New York Times Editorial Board accused the transportation industry of always getting what they want from Congress, safety be damned.
Titled A Senate Bill That Makes Roads and Railroads Less Safe (PDF), the Times accuses the Trucking industry of solving the driver shortage by recruiting unqualified and dangerous people to stick behind the wheel. The Times fails to mention how Transportation is one of the most regulated industries in the nation and that so many companies operate on razor thin margins because they prioritize safety.
What really sent the Editorial Board into a fit this time is the possibility of lowering the minimum age for interstate truck drivers to 18 from 21. The Times sites studies (though they fail to actually name them) that show that teenage and young adult drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents than other adults. As such, they reason it would be absurd to allow such inexperienced drivers to haul heavy trucks over long distances. They see this as a shameless way to fill two problems with the trucking industry. There is both a driver shortage and the average age of drivers is higher than the rest of the American work force. The industry should just raise wages and working conditions in order to recruit more drivers, they argue. An interesting suggestion considering that truck driver’s on industry average make decent middle class salaries (rookies make $35,000-45,000 a year) and as for working conditions, well we’ve discussed government regulation.
The Times was kind enough to mention that most states allow 18 year olds to operate trucks intrastate but clearly state borders are a line too far. All of this illustrates that the Editorial Board has a woeful misunderstanding of the trucking industry. For starters, truck drivers have to go through rigorous training and apprenticeships before any company is putting them behind the wheel. Period! To keep reverting back to age is insulting. The Times does not argue 18 year olds are too young to serve in the military, too young to vote, too young to marry, etc. The Times seems to be saying that a drive from NYC to Buffalo is fine but NYC to LA is unacceptable. What about NYC to Newark? What about Newark to Philly? This is why this stipulation is so important. This is the Northeast, we are all bunched up on top of each other here. If companies can’t hire drivers to do simple day trips across state lines then the driver shortage will continue and the average age of drivers will increase. Hey, aren’t there studies about the dangers of the elderly behind the wheel?