FMCSA seeks comments on expanded pilot program for younger drivers

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 5/14/2019

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requesting comments on a potential second pilot program to allow 18, 19 and 20-year-olds to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

In July 2018, FMCSA published a notice announcing the details of a pilot program that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds with military training to drive interstate. A possible second pilot program would involve nonmilitary drivers.

FMCSA’s notice and request for comments regarding the second pilot program is set to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, May 15.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is against the continued efforts to allow younger truck drivers to cross state lines, saying it will lead to a decrease in safety and allow large motor carriers to pay lower wages.

“OOIDA naturally has concerns about efforts by large motor carriers to allow teenagers to become interstate drivers,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs. “First and foremost, research and data has consistenly indicated younger drivers are less safe behind the wheel than their older counterparts.

“Additionally, expanding the driver pool won’t solve large motor carriers’ precarious retention problem, which they knowingly misidentify as a driver shortage. We suspect bringing younger drivers into the long-haul industry will enable these carriers to continue to ignore the problems that have kept driver turnover rates exceptionally high – increasingly poor working conditions and inadequate compensation. In fact, lowering the minimum age requirement for interstate drivers to 18 may very well exacerbate these problems.”

The OOIDA Foundation has cited statistics that younger drivers are more likely to receive a traffic conviction or violation, and a recent federal report affirmed OOIDA’s stance that there isn’t a shortage of truck drivers.

OOIDA contends that without a driver shortage, there seems to be no justification for the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would lower the interstate driving age to 18. Current federal regulations allow 18- to 20-year-old drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle intrastate.

FMCSA requests comments on the training, qualifications, driving limitations, and vehicle safety systems the agency should consider in developing options or approaches for a second pilot program for younger drivers.

“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,” the FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in a news release. “We encourage all commercial motor vehicle stakeholders to submit comments on a potential interstate pilot program for younger drivers.”

After the notice is published on May 15 in the Federal Register, comments can be submitted at by including Docket ID FMCSA-2018-0346, or by mailing Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of Transportation; 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE; West Building Ground Floor Room W-12-140; Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.



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