National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) executive director David French has expressed support for the new legislation, ‘Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act’, aimed to address the shortage of commercial truck drivers in the US.

The DRIVE-Safe Act is expected to be introduced by Representative Duncan D. Hunter Jr., R-California, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, tomorrow.

The legislation, which would establish a two-stage apprenticeship programme with sequential probationary periods, is believed to play a significant role in reducing a shortage of commercial truck drivers, which affects the efficient delivery of food and supplies to restaurants across the country.

Currently, individuals under 21 years old are restricted from driving a commercial motor vehicle across state lines as per regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“America’s long-haul trucking industry provides vital distribution networks but they need a steady stream of new talent to enter the profession in order to function.”

The new apprenticeship programme would see drivers between 18 and 21 years old required to meet progressive competency requirements and demonstrate achievement of safety benchmarks.

On successful completion of the programme, the participants would be allowed to drive commercial trucks in interstate commerce on their own.

According to American Trucking Associations estimates, 50,000 positions were left vacant last year and the unfilled positions are expected to increase to nearly 175,000 by 2026.

In a letter to Hunter, NCCR executive director David French said: “Chain restaurants and their thousands of small business franchisees rely on a stable system of distribution for their food supply chains.

“America’s long-haul trucking industry provides the vital distribution networks that serve the chain restaurant industry and so many other sectors of our economy, but they need a steady stream of new talent to enter the profession in order to function. The DRIVE-Safe Act will go a long way toward addressing our nation’s current truck driver shortage.”

A division of the National Retail Federation, NCCR members include the country’s major quick-service and table-service chains.