Transportation Trucking Federal agencies

Should 18-year-olds be interstate truck drivers? FMCSA considers pilot program

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Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on a potential pilot program that would allow drivers ages 18 to 20 to operate interstate commercial motor vehicles, according to a notice published in the May 15 Federal Register.

Currently, federal regulations permit drivers as young as 18 to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce only.

Specifically, FMCSA is requesting comments pertaining to potential training, qualifications, driving limitations and vehicle safety systems.

“We want input from the public on efforts that offer the potential to create more jobs in the commercial motor vehicle industry, while maintaining the highest level of safety,” FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez said in a press release.

This past July, FMCSA unveiled a similar pilot program open to current and former military personnel between the ages of 18 and 20. To be eligible for this initial program, drivers must have undergone specified heavy-vehicle driver training while in service and be sponsored by a participating motor carrier.

The American Trucking Associations supports the proposed program, calling it a logical progression for the industry.

“Right now, 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old drivers are driving trucks in the United States,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a May 14 press release. “What these pilot programs will do is set out a path for these drivers to fully participate in our industry by allowing them to drive interstate.”

Additionally, Spear cites bipartisan support for current House and Senate bills – both introduced in February – that would allow drivers younger than 21 to operate interstate CMVs.

However, at least two groups are voicing their opposition to the program.

In a May 14 press release, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asserts that younger drivers lack overall experience and are less safe behind the wheel than more seasoned colleagues.

“Launching this pilot program would go against FMCSA’s goal of improving highway safety,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said in the release. “The agency should not be used as a tool for large motor carriers to expand their driver pool instead of fixing the problems that have led to their extremely high turnover rates.

“If highway safety is the priority, the age should go up, not down. Instead of efforts to entice the least experienced, the focus should be hiring and retaining the most experienced drivers, not expanding the funnel or driver churn.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is also expressing concerns. In a May 20 press release, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa contends the program “is of grave concern to those who use the roadways as their workplace” while “also potentially jeopardizing the safety of all road users.”

Comments on the pilot program are due July 15.

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