Alabama Has Passed a Bill to Allow Applicants as Young as 18 to Apply for a Commercial Driver’s License. Is This a Safe Move?

The state legislature of Alabama just passed a Bill that permits the DMV to issue Class A commercial driver’s license to applicants as young as 18 years old. The Bill, HB 479, has lowered the driving age for young commercial drivers to drive within the state. This Bill was passed primarily to aid trucking companies who are constantly searching for new truck drivers. The Bill was passed in recognition of the current economic boom in the State but also with an awareness of the marked decrease in qualified commercial drivers. The lack of truck drivers has resulted in delays in moving freight efficiency and led to growing disenchantment among business owners and shippers. It is hoped that this Bill will expand the pool for truck drivers.

Alabama has steadily been improving its economy and the local industries. Unemployment is on the low side, and there are plenty of skilled jobs available. However, for the past 3 decades, the state has seen a lack of truck drivers. There are several reasons why truck drivers have diminished in the state including 1) advancing age and retirement 2) trucking is no longer an attractive option 3) difficult job 4) long working hours 5) constantly away from the family and 6) minimal incentives. The state has had to rely on truck drivers from out of state, consequently losing business and facing backlogs on shipments.

The Alabama state government has worked with truck driving companies and has made significant improvements in the working hours and benefits, but still, there are plenty of truck driver jobs which go unfilled every year.

In order to drive a truck in Birmingham, all new drivers will first have to meet the safety training and driving guidelines which have been established by Alabama’s Law Enforcement agency and the Federal Carrier Safety Administration. However,  all drivers less than 21 years of age will not be able to transport hazardous material in a commercial truck.

The new Bill will be signed into law by governor Kay Ivey and will come into effect on Feb 7, 2020. Trucking companies are delighted with this bill as it will significantly improve the trucking business and be a win-win situation for consumers and shippers. With a current truck driver shortage, this will significantly ease the burden on the state economy.

However, there are also some experts who think that the implementation of this legislation may jeopardize public safety.

A large majority of road accidents today involve young drivers. Overall, 20% of motor vehicle accidents are caused by young drivers mainly because of speeding, distracted driving, and failure to obey traffic laws. Critics of this Bill feel that reducing the age to get a commercial driver’s license will lead to an increase in young truck drivers. This is a risk factor because young truck drivers could further endanger the public and property. Trucks are much bigger than other vehicles and more likely to cause injuries and damage compared to a car, for example. Since young drivers can often be reckless and negligent, this measure could end up increasing the number of trucking accidents. Truck driving requires experience, constant vigilance, and anticipation while on the roads. Young people are far too easily distracted and do not have the same type of experience as older drivers when handling large rigs.

Whether these young commercial drivers will be safe on the interstate roads in Alabama remains to be seen. While the reason for permitting young individuals to a commercial driver’s license is purely economic, it may also prove to be disastrous if unnecessary lives are lost due to accidents. The hope is that if the State of Alabama implements this change, it will have to design policies and rules and regulations that would ensure that young drivers understand the seriousness of the situation and are trained to be careful when driving trucks.

Trucks are dangerous vehicles if not handled properly. Truck drivers are also usually overworked and tired, which makes safe driving a challenge for them in any case. By allowing young drivers to take over a large-sized vehicle like a truck could be dangerous. Let’s see how the State of Alabama plans to implement this change safely and intelligently.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton LLP

If you were involved in a truck accident, call a truck accident lawyer at Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton LLP, Once you provide the details of your situation to our truck accident attorneys, they will be happy to assist you.

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