The Wheel Act

The United States faces a shortage of truck drivers. By 2024, estimates suggest that the shortage throughout the country could be as acute as 175,000 unfilled driving positions. The trucking industry moves most of our nation’s freight tonnage and is vital to the health of our economy.  To address this issue, Congresswoman Tenney introduced the WHEEL Act, which improves upon a pilot program already authorized by Congress. 

  • The FAST Act, passed by Congress with bipartisan support in 2016, included a pilot program to study the safety implications of allowing individuals between the ages of 18-21 to operate trucks across state lines. Under current federal law, individuals in this age group are prohibited from doing so even though they can otherwise obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in each of the 48 contiguous states.
  • However, this pilot program has been limited by the strict requirements that participants be veterans between the ages of 18-21, a demographic that has been challenging to recruit in statistically significant numbers for the purposes of this study.
  • To address this issue, the WHEEL Act would broaden the criteria for participation in the pilot program. The bill expands the pilot program to allow CDL holders age 18-21 who have a clean driving record and have received a certification of completion from a qualified training program to participate in the study. It is common sense. We already allow qualified drivers in this age group to drive from Long Island to Buffalo without a problem, but prohibit them from crossing the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey into New York City.
  • Safety on the road should be paramount and that’s why we must get this pilot program right. The updated requirements set out by this bill are stringent – participants must not only possess a valid CDL, they must also have a clean driving record and satisfy the added requirement of completing some other form of training or certification, as determined by the Secretary of Transportation, that demonstrates aptitude, safety, and suitability. Expanding the pilot program under these conditions will enable more qualified individuals to participate as well as generate more robust and accurate data for the Federal Highway Safety Administration to review. All the while, it upholds rigorous safety and training standards to ensure participants are highly skilled.
  • With a truck driving shortage that is only expected to grow more acute over time, we should take all reasonable steps to address the issue. The WHEEL Act does this by sensibly expanding the interstate truck driving pilot program authorized by the FAST Act while maintaining strong standards for participants. 

Read a letter of support from the American Trucking Association here

Find the final legislative text here

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