On January 10, 2023 Representative Brian J. Mast introduced legislation to change the definition of interstate and intrastate commerce so that truck drivers as young as 18 can haul more freight under state law. Entitled the Ceasing Age-Based Trucking Restrictions Act H.R. 267. The bill provides that “[t]The transportation of goods from a port of entry and another place within the same State as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating outside such State or the United States by commercial motor vehicle shall not be considered interstate transportation for purposes of requirements relating to commercial driver’s licenses under this chapter.” By redefining as intrastate some types of freight now considered interstate, it would exempt truck drivers who haul such freight from having to meet the federal commercial driver’s license (“CDL”) requirements, including the requirement to be at least 21 years old. Some states allow drivers of intrastate commerce to be as young as 18 years old.
Under federal regulations, drivers must have a CDL if they move “commerce,” which is defined as:
(1) Any trade, traffic, or transportation within the jurisdiction of the United States between a place in a State and a place outside of such State, including a place outside of the United States; or
(2) Trade, traffic, and transportation in the United States that affects any trade, traffic, and transportation described in paragraph (1) of this definition.
49 C.F.R. § 383.5. Although this rule does not discuss the definition of intra- and interstate commerce, this definition largely follows the definition of interstate commerce arrived upon by the courts in interpreting the scope of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. As described by a Supreme Court case from 1922:
The application of the commerce clause of the Constitution in the Swift Case was the result of the natural development of interstate commerce under modern conditions. It was the inevitable recognition of the great central fact that such streams of commerce from one part of the country to another, which are ever flowing, are in their very essence the commerce among the states and with foreign nations, which historically it was one of the chief purposes of the Constitution to bring under national protection and control. This court declined to defeat this purpose in respect of such a stream and take it out of complete national regulation by a nice and technical inquiry into the noninterstate character of some of its necessary incidents and facilities, when considered alone and without reference to their association with the movement of which they were an essential but subordinate part.
Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495, 518–19, 42 S. Ct. 397, 403, 66 L. Ed. 735 (1922).
The courts further defined interstate commerce to include when the freight is moved, in part, between two points within one state.
When persons or goods move from a point of origin in one state to a point of destination in another, the fact that a part of that journey consists of transportation by an independent agency solely within the boundaries of one state does not make that portion of the trip any less interstate in character. That portion must be viewed in its relation to the entire journey rather than in isolation. So viewed, it is an integral step in the interstate movement.
United States v. Yellow Cab Co., 332 U.S. 218, 228–29, 67 S. Ct. 1560, 1566, 91 L. Ed. 2010 (1947) (citations omitted), overruled on other grounds by Copperweld Corp. v. Indep. Tube Corp., 467 U.S. 752, 104 S. Ct. 2731, 81 L. Ed. 2d 628 (1984).
Under these Court decisions interpreting the Constitution, freight moving from a port to another point in the same state as the port is considered the transportation of interstate commerce. Thus, under current law, the drivers of such movements must be qualified to operate under the federal CDL rules, including being 21 years old (with some training and apprenticeship exceptions).
TCLF Analysis: Although it appears that H.R. 267 is attempting to redefine what may be a constitution-based definition of interstate commerce, it is doing so only with respect to defining the scope of the federal CDL requirements under the motor carrier laws in Title 49 of the U.S. Code. By allowing drivers as young as 18 under state law to haul a greater universe of freight than they can now under federal law, this legislation appears to be an attempt to address what some in the motor carrier industry have called a truck driver shortage. It does not address the issues raised by others in the trucking industry, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc., who describe the problem as driver turnover. See https://landline.media/ooidas-message-of-no-driver-shortage-hits-mainstream/
The co-sponsors of the bill when it was introduced were:
Rep. Perry, Scott [R-PA-10]
Rep. Hinson, Ashley [R-IA-2]
Rep. Miller-Meeks, Mariannette [R-IA-1]
Rep. Moolenaar, John R. [R-MI-2]
Rep. Owens, Burgess [R-UT-4]
Rep. McClintock, Tom [R-CA-5]
Rep. Guest, Michael [R-MS-3]
Rep. Feenstra, Randy [R-IA-4]
Rep. Lesko, Debbie [R-AZ-8]
Rep. Steube, W. Gregory [R-FL-17]
Rep. Gimenez, Carlos A. [R-FL-28]
Rep. Tenney, Claudia [R-NY-24]
Rep. Hageman, Harriet M. [R-WY-At Large]
Rep. Valadao, David G. [R-CA-22]
Rep. Moore, Barry [R-AL-2]
Rep. Johnson, Bill [R-OH-6]
Rep. Womack, Steve [R-AR-3]
Rep. Boebert, Lauren [R-CO-3]
Rep. Finstad, Brad [R-MN-1]