Guest Commentary

Age for CDL holders to drive interstate and transport goods originating in other states within Illinois should be lowered

Darla Rischar is director of human resources at Kohl Wholesale. | Submitted Photo
By DARLA RISCHAR, Kohl Wholesale director of human resources
Posted: Jun. 16, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Jun. 17, 2019 11:00 am

When it comes to road safety, there are no sides. Pro-safety is pro-family, it's pro-business, it's pro-American.

At Kohl Wholesale, we strive to train qualified and skilled drivers. While both federal and state governments have their own safety requirements, as a family-owned company with a five-generation heritage and history in the Quincy community, we go above and beyond these requirements. When training new drivers, we do more than what's required with a customized in-house training program and road test to assess whether a recruit is ready to drive and represent our company -- and the community.

No driver shortage -- which the U.S. is currently experiencing -- would ever compel us to act differently, as safety is of primary importance. Drivers are one of our greatest investments. Their record is our record, which is why we are meticulous and carefully screen our drivers.

Our company's biggest challenge isn't meeting or exceeding safety requirements. We emphasize safety every day.

Our biggest challenge is recruiting and retaining the new personnel needed to meet demand, to keep food goods flowing into schools, nursing homes and mom-and-pop shops in the tri-state area. And, one of the biggest obstacles to recruitment is an outdated federal regulation that does not allow 18- to 20-year-old drivers, who are able to earn a commercial driver's license, to cross state lines or transport interstate commerce until they turn 21, which is not really great for a company located at the junction of three major states.

As a company, we were pleased to see the DRIVE-Safe Act introduced in the U.S. Senate and House. While providing mechanisms to enhance and modernize safety regulations, the DRIVE-Safe Act would also allow adults old enough to vote and old enough to enlist in the military, the ability to drive interstate, in the process opening up lucrative career prospects to 18- to 20-year-old tri-state area workers in a field that offers job security and benefits.

On a recent visit to Washington, D.C., to ask our lawmakers to support the DRIVE-Safe Act, I heard some legislative representatives express safety concerns over allowing 18- to 20-year-olds become commercial drivers. As someone who works in human resources, I know from our perspective, this bill is not about relaxing our high standards. This bill is about creating economic opportunity.

This bill is about providing young men and women with demonstrated aptitude the opportunity to master interstate commercial motor vehicle driving through a rigorous apprenticeship program that combines 400 hours of minimum training with supervised, real-world driving with a mentor -- all on trucks equipped with state-of-the-art, National Transportation Safety Board-endorsed vehicle safety technologies.

In the meantime, we can't ask our 18- to 20-year-olds to drive a truck across the Quincy Bayview Bridge to deliver to a customer in West Quincy, Mo., because that customer -- only 1.6 miles from my office window at Kohl Wholesale headquarters -- is in Missouri. We can't ask the rising generation of drivers to make food deliveries to Iowa, regardless of how few hours it takes to make that trip.

We'd never put a driver -- regardless of age -- behind the wheel without ensuring that the driver was trained properly through our customized program. The intent of the DRIVE-Safe Act is notably stated directly in the bill's name, and I hope the Illinois delegation supports its swift passage.