TRANSPORTATION: Paving way for more trucking

An apprenticeship program being development by the federal government and industry leaders could help relieve supply-chain backlogs.

The program, detailed by an Associated Press article, would allow 18-, 19- and 20-year-old truck drivers to cross state lines.

The program has a number of safety provisions, including requirements that the trucks have some of the latest safety features such as an electronic braking crash mitigation system, that drivers receive an additional 400 hours of advanced training and that an older mentor ride along with the multi-state trips.

As Nick Geale, vice president of workforce safety for trucking groups, told the Associated Press, 49 states and Washington, D.C., already allow 18-year-old truckers. Allowing those very same truckers, with additional safety precautions, to cross state lines is neither a radical idea or an inherently dangerous one.

The proposal also is a pilot program. Its critics will have ample opportunities to review the data and, if warranted, make the case that the program needs to be terminated.

In the meantime, the program can help alleviate bottlenecks in shipping and the supply chain, easing some of the frustrations of consumers and some of the pressures on pricing that contribute to inflation. This, in turn, helps the U.S. regain its economic footing in ways that help all Americans.

And of course, some younger drivers may find long-haul trucking to be the best fit for their future, itself a benefit for young people entering the workforce of which we should be mindful.

In our view, the immediate benefits of the proposal, when coupled with the opportunity to jettison it if we find its unsafe — a frankly unlikely outcome given, again, that 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds already can drive semi-trucks in 49 states — makes it a necessary step to take.


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