PRINCETON, W.Va. – Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, today urged the state’s federal representatives to call on congressional leaders to move forward with the federal DRIVE-Safe Act, which could build upon legislation passed overwhelmingly by state lawmakers earlier this year.
“This federal bill, combined with our new state law, could create thousands of jobs for young people in our state’s trucking industry and unleash a great deal of economic potential across our state,” Delegate Porterfield said.
Delegate Porterfield this past session was the lead sponsor of House Bill 2850, which streamlined the process for drivers 18 and older to obtain their commercial driver’s license. The bill passed the House unanimously and overwhelmingly passed the state Senate.
The bill allowed the state to issue a commercial license instruction permit to adults who have held a graduated Class E, Class E or Class D license for at least one year. Prior law required a two-year waiting period.
“Our bill makes it much easier for young adults coming out of high school to get a good-paying job as a CDL driver as quickly as possible,” Delegate Porterfield said. “While this is great at the state level, federal law still ties our hands in seeing this bill unleash its full potential.”
Federal law requires CDL drivers be at least 21 years old in order to transport materials across state lines. This means licensed West Virginia CDL drivers under the age of 21 can only drive commercial vehicles within the state.
“This poses a real challenge for people who want to work in the trucking industry in our border areas,” Delegate Porterfield said. “It means drivers in Wheeling can’t make deliveries to St. Clairsville, Ohio. A driver in Bluefield, West Virginia, can’t go to Bluefield, Virginia, and our Eastern Panhandle friends can’t make deliveries in Maryland or Virginia. This is particularly bad for trucking companies in the coal and natural gas industry, which need drivers that can cross state lines.”
Delegate Porterfield said these trucking jobs often have starting salaries beginning at $40,000 to $50,000, which is a great start for young adults coming out of high school. The state could also engage in licensing reciprocity agreements with other states, should the federal government lower the interstate age limit.
“Our trucking industry currently has thousands of job openings, but this federal law is a hinderance to filling those positions,” Delegate Porterfield said. “I’ve reached out to congressional representatives, and I’m hopeful they can work with their leaders when Congress gets back into session to get this vital piece of legislation the consideration it deserves.”
The Senate version of the DRIVE-Safe Act, S.569, is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The House version, H.R. 1374, is also awaiting action.