Drivers as young as 18 can obtain a CDL in West Virginia, though they are limited to intrastate travel until they turn 21. All states except Hawaii follow this rule. A new bill, however, proposes to do away with this restriction and let truckers under 21 travel outside of their state after completing an apprenticeship program. As part of the program, truckers would drive 400 hours with at least 240 of those hours accompanied by a trucker 21 or older.
Introduced in both the House and Senate in 2019, the bipartisan bill is called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act. The Senate Commerce Transportation and Safety Subcommittee held a hearing in February 2020 that addressed the concerns that have arisen over this bill, and below are some of the objections.
First of all, some argued that the bill is confronting an issue that is non-existent: namely, a perceived driver shortage. Others focused on how the bill will put teen truckers, who are unfamiliar with travel in different states, at a higher risk for crashes. Truckers aged 18 to 20 already have a significantly higher crash rate than other truckers. There were calls urging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to study crash rates among these truckers in more detail.
As for those who are involved in truck accidents, they may be able to seek compensation if there is clear evidence that the trucker or the trucking company was to blame. Younger truckers are naturally inexperienced and may cause a crash through their own negligence, or the company may be at fault for not sufficiently training their younger employees. In any event, victims who intend to file a claim may want a lawyer and his or her team of investigators to gather that evidence as the first step.