INVESTIGATES: Fixing supply chain crisis with teen truck drivers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In an effort to end the supply chain crisis, a group of governors, including Ron DeSantis, are looking to change the trucking industry, but many aren’t happy about what they want to do.

It’s called ‘Operation Open Road’ and would lower the driving age to get a commercial driver’s license, or CDL.

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Right now, the federal limit to get a CDL is 21 years old. Operation Open Road would lower it to 18. Driver Provi Figueras says whatever can be done to get more drivers on the road is a good thing.

“A lot of places really don’t have enough truck drivers really to run their loads,” she says.

There is already a pilot program in Florida that allows for 18 to 20-year-olds to get their CDL, but they can only drive inside state lines. This change would allow them to cross the country.

Father Russ Swift does not want that to happen. “It’s a crazy idea,” he tells Action News Jax’s Emily Turner, “it’s going to get people killed. Including those teen drivers.”

He lost his son to a crash with a teen trucker in Arizona and says that age group doesn’t have the maturity or experience to handle 18 wheels and eighty thousand pounds safely.

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“He tried to pull a U-turn on a desert highway,” Swift says about his son’s accident, “and got stranded across both lanes of the road. It’s inconceivable to me that we are going to continue to let things like that happen.”

We asked the DMV for the number of CDL’s issued to drivers under 21, but haven’t heard back. But we did get the number of citations written to them by FHP in the last year. Together, 18 to 20-year-olds have racked up almost 70 citations.

But the trucking industry says they have an even bigger number: disappearing drivers. Industry experts say the truck driver shortage is at an all-time high. It’s down 80 thousand drivers. They’re leaving the industry at a rate of almost 1200 a week.

Lowering the age limit would certainly raise the number of those eligible to take the job. And while that might ease the supply chain crisis Swift says it’ll come at a cost. “It will significantly damage and decrease the safety on our public highways,” he says.