- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a three-year pilot program to allow certain drivers from 18 to 21 years old to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.
- The program, required under the new Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, would apply to people who received specified heavy-vehicle driver training in the military and who are sponsored by a motor carrier.
- Under the plan, the young drivers will be compared with those ages 21 and older with similar experience. The FMCSA made the proposal Friday and is accepting public comment for 30 days.
The trucking industry continues to face a driver shortage: an 2015 analysis by the American Trucking Association estimated 48,000 trucking jobs remained unfilled. The shortage is expected to intensify given an increased need for distribution services coupled with a retiring workforce.
As a result, the implementation of a new interstate commercial driver's license for 18 to 21 year-olds could be the industry's saving grace.
Current federal law requires that commercial motor vehicle drivers engaged in interstate commerce be at least 21 years old, due to a 1975 study that found under-21 year-olds lacked the maturity, skill and judgment for long-haul commercial trips. Yet five years ago, regulators set a minimum age of 18 for a person to receive a commercial learner's permit to conduct intrastate trips.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's selective pilot program seeks to test the driving abilities of young drivers to determine whether the rule should be amended to allow under 21 year-old drivers. In addition, the regulator lists several questions which it must still determine, including whether the drivers need additional safeguards, what constitutes "comparable levels of training and experience," and how to measure safety records for the age group.