Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205
04/25/2019 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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SB 75-COMMERCIAL VEHICLE LICENSING REQ'S 4:07:06 PM VICE CHAIR COGHILL reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of SENATE BILL NO. 75, "An Act relating to a license to drive a commercial motor vehicle." 4:07:45 PM JOE PLESHA, Staff, Senator Mia Costello, Juneau, stated that the sponsor has identified two problems the trucking industry faces. One is that the demand for drivers in Alaska exceeds the available workforce. The second problem relates to the federal statute on interstate freight that requires drivers to be 21 or older to carry any freight that originated outside the state. SB 75 addresses these issues. First, it changes the minimum age to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) from 19 years of age to 18 years of age, which will increase the pool of available drivers. This change will make it possible to recruit young people as they graduate high school. SB 75 also authorizes a person who is at least 18 years of age but under 21 years of age to operate a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce. This new subsection anticipates a change in federal law that prohibits drivers under 21 years of age from carrying interstate freight. This is particularly cumbersome in Alaska. The hope is that the federal law will change if enough states pass legislation similar to SB 75. Alaska will be ready when that happens. MR. PLESHA described SB 75 as a proactive potential jobs bill. 4:11:02 PM AVES THOMPSON, Executive Director, Alaska Trucking Association (ATA), Anchorage, reported that ATA is a statewide organization representing nearly 200 member companies. He described freight moving as an essential element of the economy that impacts people every day. He said that ATA believes that lowering the eligibility age for an intrastate CDL will provide a path for young people to start a truck-driving career. He said that both intrastate and interstate drivers are subject to the same qualifications and rules and Alaska adopts the federal rules by reference in AAC 17.25.210. He pointed out that an 18 year old can qualify for a commercial pilot's license. Lowering the intrastate license requirement to age 18 allows young men and women who have graduated high school to immediately begin a career as a truck driver. This is a good opportunity for young people and it will build a larger driver pool to help satisfy the demand for commercial vehicle drivers. He warned that the current driver shortage will only get worse if a major project starts. SB 75 will help solve this problem in Alaska and when Congress changes the law to lower the interstate driving age, Alaska will be ready. VICE CHAIR COGHILL asked if he anticipates insurance costs will go up if the age to receive a CDL goes down. MS. THOMPSON said ATA does not believe that insurance rates will spike, but there may be some increase. The market will determine whether companies can afford to pay for those drivers. VICE CHAIR COGHILL asked how long it takes to go through the CDL training. MR. THOMPSON explained that there is a 5-6 week training course for novice drivers. The new driver then has to find a carrier that will hire them and go through that training program. "Clearly a prudent motor carrier is not going to turn over a $.5 million rig to someone they don't have confidence in their ability to drive," he said. 4:16:38 PM SENATOR MICCICHE said he heard the bill in another committee and he supports it as a win-win for young people in the state. Those training programs are strict so it's not as though unqualified 18 year olds will be driving, he said. MR. Thompson reiterated that an 18 year old can qualify for a commercial pilot's license. 4:17:59 PM DON ETHERIDGE, Lobbyist, AFL-CIO, Juneau, stated that the union supports SB 75. He said that when young people enter their apprenticeship programs, they are required to have a CDL within the first 2,000 hours to advance to the next step. If the young person is just out of high school and 18, they have to wait until they turn 19. The union sees this bill as helpful for apprenticeship programs to get these young people trained and working. He listed the union jobs that require a CDL and noted that some years ago he chaired a board that helped at-risk youth stay out of trouble and find work. He said some went into apprenticeship programs and he believes this bill would help that program as well. He described the CDL test as rigorous saying that it takes study and effort to pass. He also highlighted that someone who has a CDL is subject to random drug testing. 4:20:39 PM SENATOR REINBOLD said she supports random drug testing which is one reason she supports the bill. She asked if he could take a position on random drug testing for the employees of all three branches of government. MR. ETHRIDGE responded that he is subject to drug testing and he doesn't have a problem with it, but as a lobbyist for the AFL- CIO he can't take a position because they haven't discussed it. However, the union does take drug testing seriously. SENATOR REINBOLD asked what the consequence is for a positive drug test for someone who holds a CDL. MR. ETHRIDGE replied they lose their license for a period of time and it could be a firing offense. SENATOR REINBOLD asked what the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is for alcohol. MR. ETHRIDGE said alcohol is .04 and the drug prohibitions follow federal law so marijuana is prohibited. SENATOR REINBOLD said, "Excellent." 4:24:30 PM At ease 4:25:06 PM VICE CHAIR COGHILL reconvened the meeting. 4:25:21 PM SENATOR MICCICHE moved to report SB 75, work order 31-LS0610\A, from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). VICE CHAIR COGHILL found no objection and SB 75 moved from the Senate State Affairs Standing Committee.