The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is accepting applications for its pilot program to allow some military veterans and reservists who are under age 21 to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.
FMCSA announced Monday, June 3, the pilot program is open. Eligible candidates must be between 18-20 years old and possess the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license. Applicants must also be sponsored by a participating trucking company.
“This program will help our country’s Veterans and Reservists transition into good-paying jobs while addressing the shortage of truck drivers in our country,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a news release on Monday.
The pilot program was created by a mandate in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and is expected to run for up to three years. During that time, the safety records of these drivers will be compared to the records of a control group of drivers.
While supportive of job opportunities for U.S. military veterans, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association urges caution.
“OOIDA is proud to have approximately 50,000 military veterans as members and supports government initiated programs that promote veterans entering the trucking profession,” the Association wrote in comments it submitted last year on the proposal. “OOIDA agrees that military experience often lends itself to a successful career within the industry. However, we have some reservations about lowering the age of drivers to address a perceived driver shortage.”
OOIDA said of the shortcomings of the program include the small size of the study groups, and a slant toward large carriers. The Association also suggested that the program’s data should be evaluated by an independent third party.
“Previous research has shown that most drivers under the age of 21 lack the general maturity, skill and judgment that is necessary in handling commercial motor vehicles,” OOIDA wrote. “While military experience may offset these scientific findings, the structure of the proposed pilot program will make it difficult to determine safety performance of under-21 veteran drivers compared to the rest of the industry.”
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