Alabama is lowering its minimum age requirement to obtain a Class A Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, from 21 to 18, with some restrictions. While the hope is to fill a hollow workforce pipeline into Alabama truck driving careers, many are left with concerns about the legislation and future of the industry. The Alabama Department of Labor reports that our state will need 2,200 more licensed commercial drivers by 2026, and there are just over 4,000 openings for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers every year.

Southeast AlabamaWorks will hold a Distribution Cluster meeting in October which will give insurance agencies, distribution companies and truck drivers the opportunity to discuss their concerns and potentially find answers. Southeast AlabamaWorks is the Regional Workforce Council, established by AlabamaWorks under the Alabama Department of Commerce, that serves a 10-county region in the southeastern part of the state and collaborates with business and industry to identify workforce challenges and deliver solutions.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation, HB479, that will go into effect February 2020 and brings Alabama’s trucking industry hope to be more competitive – Alabama was one of only two states that restricts a Class A CDL to drivers 21 and older. Sen. Donnie Chesteen and Rep. Dexter Grimsley, the respective sponsors of HB479 and its companion Senate Bill, hope the bill will assist in filling what has been described as a severe driver shortage across the country.

Drivers will still be required to complete training and pass state and federal licensing tests, and drivers ages 18, 19 and 20 will not be able to obtain ADEM  permits, hazmat or passenger endorsements and will be limited to travel within the state of Alabama. Current Alabama laws allow drivers ages 18 to 21 to receive their Class B CDLs, but many find employment options are limited without Class A licensing. Support of the bill has been echoed by organizations such as the Alabama Farmers Federation, Business Council of Alabama and Alabama Trucking Association, but there are those in the trucking and distribution industry who still have questions.

What does this mean for companies that hire truck drivers – will they be able to insure younger drivers? Will companies lift their current experience requirements for employment?

Will the area have enough training courses and testing facilities to suffice the predicted influx of those pursuing their CDL license? What does this mean for insurance agents who write policies for commercial drivers and trucking companies? What does this mean for high school students who are interested in truck
driving careers?

On Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m. Southeast AlabamaWorks will bring together elected officials, insurance specialists and industry experts to discuss this legislation and its impact to drivers and businesses in Alabama. Drivers, insurers, business and industry representatives, educators and CDL training providers
are invited to join the next Southeast AlabamaWorks Distribution Cluster Meeting at the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, located at 102 Jamestown Boulevard, in Dothan.

To submit a question for discussion, register to attend, or for more information visit bit.ly/Distribution1022 or contact Katie Thomas, Southeast AlabamaWorks representative, by calling (334) 268-0863 or kthomas@southeastalabamaworks.com.

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