MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - In the midst of the statewide truck driver shortage, a new law in Alabama will lower the age requirement to get a commercial driver’s license from 21 to 18. Currently, Alabama is one of only two states that restricts a CDL to those who are 21 years or older.
The goal is to attract people to the industry. Now, businesses will have to decide if hiring younger drivers is something they, or their insurance, can afford.
Jeffery Bennett from Wiley Sanders Truck Lines says he would be hesitant to hire an 18-year-old driver.
“That would be a case-by-case basis. All 18-year-olds are not the same, but 45,000 pounds is 45,000 pounds, regardless,”Bennett said.
Attracting younger people to the industry is crucial, as many pursue different industries before they turn 21.
Justin Dean Faust was a truck driver for 34 years in Alabama. He’s now a CDL instructor at Trenholm State Community College. While he enjoyed the people, the freedom, and the pay, he did say there were sacrifices for his family.
“What people are looking for is to make a good living for their family,” Faust said.
With the new law allowing 18-year-olds to have CDL licenses, he says it’s possible they wouldn’t mind the sacrifice so early in their careers.
Faust said even with the law change, insurance companies might not allow people under the age of 21 drive trucks.
“They might raise a red flag to start with saying there’s a cut off at 21,” he said.
Supporters of this law say it’s aimed at relieving the truck driving shortage. Truck driving jobs were ranked second for most online advertising in January 2019, behind only retail salespeople.
Amir Johnson, the director of organizational development for Central Alabama Electric Cooperative says it’s necessary for the industry to replace the older drivers who are retiring with newer ones.
“We’re going to be losing a pretty significant part of our workforce here in the next five to seven years,” he said. “We’re looking to really bring in some new talent to help us be able to better serve our members, newer, younger talent.”
And, Wiley Sanders is looking to hire 75 new drivers.
Schools like Trenholm State are working to bring those younger drivers up to speed. Faust says training those drivers while they’re young might actually be better, as they haven’t yet developed bad driving habits.
“We try to put the safest driver in the safest piece of equipment that we can,” Bennett said.
Still, safety is a top concern for businesses.
“We have very high standards for our linemen,” Johnson said.
The Alabama Truckers Association said they support the law for its longterm benefits. Ford Boswell, a spokesman with the association, said this law does not apply to most of the groups they represent because insurance companies would not allow for drivers under 21.
“It introduces younger people to truck drivers and then as they get older they can start to work in our industry,” said Boswell.
The bill was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey last week but will not go into effect until Feb. 7, 2020.