Trucker age-exemption bill reintroduced in new Congress

Underage truck drivers would be exempted from restrictions that prohibit them from moving containers to and from marine terminals as proposed in a Republican-backed bill reintroduced in the new Congress.

The Ceasing Age-Based (CAB) Trucking Restrictions Act was introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., with 19 co-sponsors, all Republican. It is identical to a bill Mast introduced in late 2021, the Supplying America Needs Truckers Aged 18 (SANTA) Act, which garnered 21 co-sponsors (all Republican) but failed to move.

As with the SANTA Act, Mast is promoting his 2023 legislation as a remedy to clogged and congested supply chains, particularly at port areas, despite evidence that congestion at major container ports has largely disappeared since the height of the crisis.

“For the better part of two years, families have struggled to get the goods they need, from baby formula to toilet paper, and Joe Biden has failed to fix it,” Mast said in a statement released Tuesday. “House Republicans are ready to get to work and deliver for the American people. The first bill I am introducing this Congress keeps our promise to fix the supply chain by cutting through red tape that keeps qualified drivers off the road.”

Federal law requires that drivers hauling cargo over state lines be at least 21, but many states allow drivers to be as young as 18 if hauling strictly within state boundaries.

Mast has pointed out, however, that under current law, picking up containers and other cargo from a marine terminal is interpreted as interstate trucking even if the port is located in the same state as a driver’s final destination, such as a distribution center.

Giving an example within his home state, “that means a 20-year-old with a commercial driver’s license could not pick up a shipment at the Port of Palm Beach and deliver it to a destination in Stuart [approximately 40 miles], but that same driver could transport cargo from Tallahassee all the way to Miami [approximately 500 miles],” Mast said in a blog post.

The CAB Act would add a subsection to the transportation title of U.S. code “to provide that the transportation of goods from a port of entry and another place within the same state as such port does not constitute interstate transportation,” the bill states.

Mast’s bill replicates one of many pieces of legislation introduced by House and Senate lawmakers in 2021 aimed at easing the supply chain gridlock resulting from pandemic lockdowns and their aftershocks, most of which did not make it out of committee.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which addresses service and rate difficulties experienced by shippers in the wake of the crisis, was an exception. It gained momentum quickly in the House and was ultimately signed into law in June last year.

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