The long debated issue may finally be coming to a head this next year. While some teens are planning their college course loads, other 18-year-olds will soon be taking inventory of their 40-ton truckloads. Lowering the legal trucking age has its benefits, there’s no denying that. But can these benefits outweigh potential risk factors associated with younger drivers?
Quite honestly, the nation needs more truckers. Badly. Why has the shortage increased more rapidly in recent years? These new recruits will be replacing the sea of Baby-Boomers retiring from the industry. They’ve served well and need to pass the baton onto the next generation. These were individuals who likely had dreamed of trucking since they were young and couldn’t wait to commit to a career on the open road. We’ve trusted them to safely haul our goods from coast to coast for decades – but can we feel that same assurance with a teenager who barely has enough real-world experience behind the wheel of a standard car?
Bring this debate to a neuroscientist and their perspective may help you realize why you made all those bad choices in your late teens. Anatomically speaking, if you’re like most people, the prefrontal lobes of your brain aren’t fully developed until your mid-twenties. To quickly summarize this area’s function: Planning, memory, attention, and the general ability to make good decisions. All qualities that drivers pulling 80 tons of steel down the road may need to posses
Does this issue have to be all or nothing? With simple additions to the bill, both sides can likely come to a positive conclusion. Instilling a mentorship program where seasoned, experienced truck drivers take these newbies with them on their routes for a designated amount of time, allowing freshly licensed teens to gain experience without the pressure of learning from dangerous mistakes. While 20-year-old individuals could follow the current path that today’s students take, it would be wise to insist that teens wade into the trucking pool, rather than diving in headfirst. Require younger drivers a year of schooling with proper chaperoning before enabling them to cross stateliness as a team driver.
Simply lowering the driving age for truckers isn’t going to be a quick fix for the industry. Those new drivers need to be able to relate to a career that has remained technologically stagnant for decades. Only recently, with the development of new apps and advancements has trucking even made a blip on the next generation’s radar. With the upcoming bill and the promise of new technology on the horizon, the practice of hauling goods across the nation will soon be changing dramatically. And this is only the beginning.