The following editorial appeared in The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa., on Thursday, July 23:
If you are a parent you understand the fear and trepidation of handing over the car keys to your children.
Now, imagine handing them the keys to a big rig, an 18-wheeler.
Typically, a teen’s first vehicle is something used, something inexpensive, because parents understand that as young and inexperienced drivers, they will be involved in an accident.
Parents’ worst fears aside, the reality is, teens have more accidents than adults. And not just more; a lot more.
According to the Transportation Departments Fatality Analysis Reporting System, drivers 18-20 years of age have a fatal crash rate 66 percent higher than drivers over 21.
Fully understanding these facts, two Republican Senators, John Thune of South Dakota and Jerry Moran of Kansas, introduced a bill in the Senate Commerce Committee that would lower the age from 21 to 18 to participate in interstate trucking.
That’s correct. They want to allow 18 year olds to drive 80,000 pound missiles on our nation’s highways. And that is not all. They want to allow them to work up to 82 hours a week.
At the heart of this matter is a trucker shortage. The American Trucking Association estimates an immediate shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 drivers and a long-term shortage of up to 100,000.
Thune, a lap dog for the trucking industry, hails from South Dakota, which has the eighth highest rate of fatal highway crashes in the U.S. Rather than focus on fixing what is clearly a serious problem in his home state, Thune wants to export their misery to the rest of us.
Lowering the age, which necessarily lowers the standards, is hardly the answer.
Not too many years ago we had a teacher shortage in our country, but no one proposed we award teacher certificates to high school graduates or at the associate degree level.
For a number of years our nation has faced a nursing shortage, yet no one is calling for CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistant) to be able to handle RN (Registered Nurse) work. On the contrary, many hospitals no longer employ LPN’s (Licensed Practical Nurse), setting RN as their minimum standard.
If the trucking industry needs more workers we suggest they begin by increasing the wage and improving work conditions, like every other industry.
With interstate highways, turnpikes, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for truck magnets (warehouses), Cumberland County seems particularly vulnerable to this ill-conceived plan.
We urge you to let Senators Casey and Toomey, and Representative Lou Barletta, a member of the house transportation committee, know your thoughts on this issue before it gains any traction.
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