- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters voiced its opposition this week to a proposed pilot program from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that would allow drivers aged 18 to 20 to drive commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.
- Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said Congress gave the FMCSA permission to put younger drivers on the road who had military experience when the FAST Act passed in 2015. "That safeguard was an important step towards counter-acting the enormous safety risks inherent with having teenagers running tractor trailers across long distances," Hoffa said in a statement. "Ignoring that decision and unilaterally deciding to explore a much broader pilot program represents a dismissive wave of the hand to the will of Congress."
- The pilot has received more than 190 comments since it was open for submissions last week. The comment period will remain open until July 15.
Currently, 18-, 19- and 20-year-old drivers can drive large trucks for commercial operations, but only in intrastate commerce.
Proponents of this pilot say allowing younger drivers to traverse state lines will help ease the driver shortage. There are legislators working to pass the DRIVE-Safe Act, which similarly looks to lower the driving age for big rigs in interstate trips. No action has been taken on the bill since it was introduced in February and similar legislation never came up for a vote in the last Congress.
"This legislation includes important provisions that would help curb the trucker shortage, train safe drivers, and deliver goods and supplies to the Kansans that need them," Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said when the DRIVE-Safe Act was introduced last year.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) most often publishes the idea of a shortage, stating in 2017 that the industry was short around 50,000 drivers.
But these claims about the driver shortage have been disputed by a Bureau of Labor Statistics study of the industry, something Hoffa mentioned in his statements this week.
"This program is also being discussed under the auspices of easing a driver shortage that mainly plagues one subset of the trucking industry," Hoffa said. " Instead of discussing the rampant turnover that part of industry faces, or the low pay and tough working conditions those drivers endure, we are disappointed to see the agency only focus on how they can get more drivers into these jobs with no suggestions of how to improve the quality of the work while they are there."
Neither the ATA nor the Union responded to requests to comment on this article.
This is not the first time FMCSA has considered lowering the age for interstate commerce trucking. It conducted a similar public comment period in 2000 that received 1,600 comments, 90% of which said bringing younger drivers onto the interstate was a bad idea.
The comments this time around seem to point in a similar direction.
John Holt commented yesterday he doesn't trust an 18-year-old to drive a 4-wheeler "much less a semi." Another comment from Mark Beckmann said 18-year-olds do not have "the maturity or temperament to operate" a semi.
But there are some voices of support for the pilot within the comments. Wesley Cummings said he "never understood how one would become unsafe when driving over [an] imaginary line from state to state."