Teens are coming to the world of the long haul in the field of professional truckers. There was a time when the median age for truckers was 54, but a shortage in haulers has prompted a need to cover the gap in New Mexico and across the country. This has led ambitious teens to step up and for at least one school to offer classes in truck driving.
The issues with teenagers driving big rigs are debated. For one thing, the industry is not lauded for its reputation as safe and reliable. The thought of it comes with a lot of misconceptions — some myth, some not — that imply a lack of oversight and plenty of mishaps. The truth is that there are are up to half a million truck accidents a year, one-tenth of those ending in a fatality.
Couple that with statistics that show teens are risky drivers, at best, and that newer drivers are more likely to get into car crashes. Almost 3,000 teenage drivers end their life behind the wheel annually with another 228,000 getting injured.
Preparing students for the long haul
One school offering an elective trucking course is putting students through the paces. Classroom training consists of 180 hours. There will be 30 hours of lab outside the class for first-hand trucking experience and further training if, after turning 18, students want to pursue a big rig career.
Currently, to be a trucker, an individual must be at least 21 years old to get a commercial driving license. However, a bill before lawmakers may lower the age limit.
Teen drivers may be excited about the possibility of having a CDL before they graduate high school. However, safety advocates are against the idea of inexperienced, essentially new drivers pulling 80,000-pound rigs across interstate highways.