The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering a pilot program that would allow 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds to drive heavy trucks in interstate commerce. Now they’re seeking comments from the public on whether or not that’s a good idea.
Last year the FMCSA announced a pilot program that would allow military veterans under the age of 21 to drive trucks interstate. When it was proposed, critics predicted that large carrier groups would use the data to push for non-military drivers to be added as well. Then, last week, FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez announced that the administration wants input from the public on a pilot program that would allow any CDL holder under 21 to drive interstate.
“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,” said Martinez. “We encourage all CMV stakeholders to submit comments on a potential interstate pilot program for younger drivers.”
Not only is the FMCSA looking for comments on whether or not a pilot for under-21 truckers is a good idea, they also want to the public to weigh in on what the program should be and how it should work.
According to the comment request, the FMCSA is looking for suggestions about requirements for training, experience with non-commercial vehicles, supervision, drive time/distance, vehicle safety systems, and more. All told, the FMCSA is looking for feedback on over two dozen questions.
In a statement put out on May 14th, OOIDA came out in opposition to the pilot program. They raised concerns over safety and seemed to imply that mega-carriers want younger drivers in order to keep driver turnover high.
“Launching this pilot program would go against FMCSA’s goal of improving highway safety,” said OOIDA president Todd Spencer. “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.”
Those large carriers do seem to be in favor of the pilot program. The American Trucking Association, a trade group which represents large carriers, issued a statement in support of the pilot program. In it, they call allowing younger drivers to drive interstate “a common-sense step.” The ATA has called for reducing the interstate driving age to 18 in the past, saying that it would help to solve the driver shortage.
That theory was recently contradicted by a Department of Labor report which “did not find evidence” that a driver shortage exists. The report even found that if it did, ATA members could quickly solve it by paying drivers more. Instead some large carriers may be deliberately keeping driver pay low in order to keep turnover high.
It’s a sentiment that is echoed in OOIDA’s statement when they make a pointed recommendation to large carriers: “Instead of efforts to entice the least experienced, the focus should be hiring and retaining the most experienced drivers, not expanding the funnel of driver churn.”
If you’d like to submit a comment, you can do so online here.