(WIVB) – New York is taking an important step toward getting America’s supply lines rolling again – allowing drivers as young as 18 to handle the big rigs on America’s highways.

Until now, New Yorkers had to be at least 21 to drive 18-wheelers.

The measure creates a new Class A commercial driver’s license for young adults, and sponsors of the legislation say it is about more than just getting the economy rolling again.

It is about new opportunities for young people to get good-paying jobs.

How comfortable would you feel riding next to a 40-ton semi-trailer with an 18-year-old at the wheel?

State senator Tim Kennedy co-sponsored legislation allowing drivers as young as 18 years old to guide the big rigs down the road. Kennedy says with supply lines bogged down from coast to coast, there is an urgent need for more truck drivers.

“We trust them to vote, we trust them to serve our country,” Kennedy said.

Experts in the trucking industry say there has been a severe shortage of drivers going back to before the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the rigors of driving the big trucks, and older drivers retiring. They estimate the industry will need a million more drivers in the next 10 years.

At Wadhams Enterprises in Cheektowaga, they could offer opportunities for advancement.

It could take two to three months for a young person to get behind the wheel.from start to finish, Including more than 300 hours on the road.

“If you are an 18 to 20-year-old, and you want to go to work, and you want to work in the trucking industry, which employs millions of people across not only New York, but across the United States, there is an opportunity for you,” Kennedy said. “You don’t have to wait until you are 21 years old.”

The state measure is tied to the federal “Build Back Better” legislation., which allows drivers between 18 and 20 to operate the big rigs within New York, but there is also a pilot program that would allow the younger drivers to cross state lines.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.