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Politics

Senators seek change to tackle ongoing labor shortages, supply chain issues

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Cindy Hyde Smith
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith from Mississippi

To address driver shortages and supply chain disruptions, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Thursday joined colleagues in asking the U.S. Department of Transportation’s agency that regulates the trucking industry to allow younger Americans to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

Hyde-Smith signed a letter that encourages the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to lower the age of eligibility from 21 to 18 for CDL applicants. The letter, led by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), asserts that the current “age of entry for this profession blocks the youngest members of our workforce from the career field.”

“The truck driver shortage, coupled with the nation’s ongoing supply chain issues, has been extremely detrimental to the economy. If left unaddressed, 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 stated.

“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,” the letter continues. “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.”

The lawmakers also warn that the shortage of truckers will worsen to more than 100,000 drivers by 2028 based on the aging demographics among commercial truck drivers.

Others signing the letter include Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

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