Teens do not have a reputation for being the safest drivers on the road. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drivers aged 16 to 19 have higher accident rates than any other age group of drivers. They are also three times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than drivers aged 20 and older.
But in spite of these risks, trucking industry lobbyists and certain federal lawmakers want to allow teens to drive commercial trucks across state lines. Such a change to federal trucking regulations could put all Pennsylvania road users in danger.
Truck Accident Risks: Changing With the Times
The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles offers three classes of commercial driver’s licenses. All are available to drivers aged 18 and older. While Pennsylvania (like many other states) allows teen drivers to hold a commercial driver’s license, federal regulations prevent them from crossing state lines in a commercial vehicle. Truck drivers must be 21 years old and hold a commercial driver’s license in order to do so. Many trucking industry insiders are looking to change this rule.
The Washington Examiner reports that two state House Republicans have introduced a bill that would allow CDL holders to cross state lines at the age of 18. The bill provides for a 400-hour training program - including supervised driving with experienced truck drivers - in order to promote teen truck driver safety. The bill has been backed by trucking industry insiders, who are concerned about filling driver shortages across the country. One of the bill’s sponsors touted the legislation as a “common sense solution” to the problem of creating job opportunities.
But does the bill adequately address very real safety concerns? Commercial trucks are especially dangerous in an accident because of their added weight and size, which increases the severity of property damage and injuries in the event of an accident. Teen truck drivers are thus even more of a public safety hazard than teens who drive passenger vehicles. The 400-hour training program may or may not help reduce teen truck driver accident rates.
There is simply not yet any data to indicate the impact on road risks. The proposed bill would have Americans test this theory by placing teen drivers behind the wheel of large, dangerous commercial vehicles to see if accident rates increase.
The Rights of Truck Accident Victims
Regardless of any changes to federal trucking regulations, transportation companies still have a legal obligation to place safe drivers on the road. Inexperienced truck drivers who cause accidents can leave their employers financially responsible for the damages they cause. Injury victims have the right to be compensated for all their losses by the trucking company that placed an inexperienced driver on the road.
A Hazleton truck accident attorney will help victims protect their legal rights throughout the claims process. Victims can be compensated for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and any other financial loss directly caused by a truck accident. It is important to identify and prove all these losses in order to access full and fair compensation for damages caused by a negligent truck driver.