There's currently a trucker shortage in the U.S., and companies across the country, including here in Erie, are trying to recruit more drivers.

The American Trucking Association estimates the trucker shortage nationwide is at over 50,000 drivers.  That number jumps to 175,000 by 2026. Curtze Food Service in Erie is hoping lawmakers do something about it.   Curtze wants Congress to lift restrictions on teenage truckers.

Curtze Food Service is based in Erie but it also has operations in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Central Pennsylvania.  Its drivers have routes that cross state lines.  Federal law prohibits anyone younger than 21 to drive a truck across state borders.  So the company, facing a driver shortage, is missing out on a pool of potential employees aged 18 through 20. Christopher Holmberg, Director of Human Resources, says the law should be changed.

"If you're 18-years old and you have your CDL, you can drive 6 hours to Philadelphia, but you cannot drive to Ripley, New York.  You can't drive to Conneaut, Ohio. It just doesn't make sense. The laws are just dated and it's time to update them,” he said.

Legislation was introduced in Washington last year called the DRIVE-Safe act.  It would have allowed truckers as young as 18 to drive across state lines.  It also would have imposed mandatory training requirements for the younger drivers. Congress recessed before a vote was taken on the bill. It's expected to be reintroduced this year. Curtze Food Service is hoping it passes.

"The DRIVE-Safe Act will allow those younger drivers with the proper training to get behind the wheel of a truck and start their career making a very good living early,” says Holmberg.

Curtze starts its drivers at around $23 an hour with a 45 to 50 hour week. But the question is…would an 18-year old be able to handle the responsibilities of an over the road driver.  Some professionals say yes. Vinnie Hoffman is a driver for Curtze.

"I think 18, I don't see why they wouldn't be able to. They just have to meet the requirements,” he said.

Fred Huff is an over the road truck driver from Niagara Falls, New York, who was passing through Erie in his tractor-trailer. He believes if 18-year old truckers can already drive within state borders, they should be able to be like him and drive across those borders.

"There's no reason they shouldn't be able to earn a living the same way.  They go out and defend our country at 18.  They should be able to drive a truck in our country,” Huff said.