Trucking Industry Turning To 18 Year Old Drivers To Ease Shortage

CHARLOTTE, NC -The U.S. government is trying to help ease the trucker shortage by allowing 18-year-olds to drive semis across state lines.

America’s economic engine runs on 18 wheels. Nearly 73% of the country’s freight is moved by roughly 3.6 million truck drivers. And the demand keeps growing.

“We don’t have enough drivers out here,” said Roscoe Meeks. The branch manager at 160 Driving Academy in West Charlotte.

“Once Covid hit, it showed it’s recession-proof and there are all those open driver positions out there and now we’re looking to fill them,” said Meeks.

He says people can walk in the door, get training in four weeks and be behind the wheel of a big rig, making a starting salary of about $50,000 dollars.

Currently, if you’re under the age of 21, you can’t drive across state lines. But that could change soon.

A new federal apprenticeship will allow 18-year-olds to drie semis across state lines.

“If you open that up to an 18 year old that would be a great career choice and I think it will flourish in the coming months,” said Meeks.

“As long as they got somebody with them, I’m not stopping anybody from getting money and experience,” said Brian Domingo. He is a week away from graduating from the truck driving course.

He supports getting more drivers out on the roads.

“There is a shortage on drivers. There is a lot of freight out there that needs to be moved. Lets get to it. If you don’t want it, I’m gonna get it,” said Domingo.

But safety advocates say this puts inexperienced drivers in control of some of the biggest, heaviest vehicles on the road.

Apprentices will be under the direct supervision of an experienced driver. The trucks in the program will also be required to have certain safety features, like automatic emergency braking, forward-facing cameras, and a top speed of 65 miles per hour.