Businesses and employers both big and small in Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District face the same challenge: they can’t find enough workers to fill open jobs in their growing businesses. From local small business owners to major Hoosier manufacturers, all are impacted by this growing workforce challenge. Hoosiers are also looking for careers that excite them and promise great pay along with a bright future on which they — and their families — can rely.

The high-paying commercial trucking industry and the various businesses, restaurants, and jobs that rely on its timely services are not immune to this challenge. Despite technology on the distant horizon, the driver shortage is affecting businesses today: from late deliveries shutting down manufacturing machines to trucking operations leaving trucks idle to retail shops closing because of the higher cost of getting their wares. Unfortunate and unintended consequences of 1930’s-era federal regulations imposed on young truckers are hurting the Hoosier economy and nationally making it nearly impossible to fill the 890,000 driving jobs needed to keep pace with growth and demand for freight transportation over the next ten years.

Indiana and nearly all other states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at the age of 18, but these drivers are prohibited by federal law from driving across a state line (or even carrying goods that have gone across a state line) until they are 21. That means a 20-year-old delivery driver working for a bakery in New Albany can’t take the 10-mile trip to Louisville, but the same 20-year-old driver could make a 600-mile run from Jeffersonville to Michigan City and back. This arbitrary rule puts businesses in our area at a disadvantage and deprives thousands of Hoosiers the opportunity to get a high-paying career.

The economy has been growing rapidly over the past year, and to keep that going, we must focus on workforce development and getting Hoosiers even better careers. Commercial truck drivers enjoy stability, competitive benefits, and higher-than-average salaries. We can improve the lives of many young Americans, give them opportunities for advancement, and enhance the economy by eliminating the obstacles currently preventing the trucking industry from alleviating its workforce shortage.

The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE Safe) Act, which I helped author and introduce last month, provides a rigorous safety and training program that enables 18 to 21-year-old CDL holders to drive across a nearby state line, not just drive any distance inside a state. Together, the provisions in this legislation aim to address the trucking industry’s driver shortage and open up more job opportunities for Hoosiers while also improving the safety and skills training for new drivers.

In Jeffersonville, Mister “P” Express Trucking has felt the burdens of an aging work force and the inability to immediately train young drivers to drive across state lines: “Mister “P” Express would welcome the ability to garner the attention of those young people graduating from high school and wanting an immediate vocation, folks we are currently losing out on. We could double our industry’s business if the driver pool was available and, driver pay is steadily increasing while the driver pool is rapidly declining. The shortage of drivers must be addressed as it is already at a critical state. It is imperative that no stone is left unturned and we are completely behind the DRIVE-Safe initiative!”

Employee shortages are job opportunities lost; young Americans in the wrong careers can lead to lower wages and missing out on their American dream. The DRIVE Safe Act is an opportunity to fill the driver shortage gap and increase job opportunities available for Hoosiers looking for high-paid, high-skilled jobs that will lead to a better future.

— Republican Trey Hollingsworth represents Indiana’s 9th Congressional district.

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