KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Right now, supply is not meeting the demand in the trucking industry. According to the American Trucking Associations, the U.S. was short 80,000 truck drivers in 2021.
Teenage truck drivers may soon be helping ease the supply chain backlogs across the country.
Currently, truckers who cross state lines must be at least 21 years old, but an apprenticeship program required by Congress would let 18-to-20-year-old truckers drive outside their home states.
The American Trucking Associations, a large industry trade group, supports the measure as a way to help with a shortage of drivers. The group estimates that the nation is running over 80,000 drivers short of the number it needs, as demand to move freight reaches historic highs.
UTK supply chain management professor Lance Saunders said as the industry searches for more drivers, it's important to remember quality over quantity.
"So it is something that we would want to make sure that we have really strong training programs so that safety is not compromised, just to get more drivers on the road," Saunders said.
As we continue to see record shortages in the trucking industry, thorough training in the field is still encouraged.
"Even if 80,000 people wanted to start driving tomorrow, we couldn't safely get them to drive tomorrow," Saunders said. "It takes time to train someone to be a good quality truck driver."
The young drivers would start out with an experienced driver in the passenger seat. The trucks they drive must also have electric brakes, forward-facing video cameras and they can't go faster than 65 miles per hour.