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FMCSA extends comment period on possible pilot program for younger interstate CMV drivers

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Washington — In response to a request from the American Trucking Associations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has pushed to Aug. 14 the deadline for comment on a potential pilot program that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds to operate commercial motor vehicles interstate.

“ATA requested a 30-day extension of the comment period, stating that the additional time was needed to enable them to gather safety performance data and other relevant information to more fully address the issues presented in a way that will best aid the agency,” a notice published in the July 17 Federal Register states.

Current federal regulations permit drivers as young as 18 to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce only. FMCSA is interested in comments pertaining to potential training, qualifications, driving limitations and vehicle safety systems.

“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.”

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.”

Similarly, International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa contends in a May 20 press release that 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.”

In July 2018, FMCSA introduced a pilot program open to current and former military personnel between the ages of 18 and 20. Eligible drivers must have undergone specified heavy-vehicle driver training while in service and be sponsored by a participating motor carrier.

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