section of the appropriations bill that passed Congress
Feb. 13 will torpedo a program that would have allowed
18-year-olds behind the wheel of tractor-trailers.
plan, which started with a proposal from the Truckload
Carriers Association, was a pilot program that would have
allowed people from 18 to 21 years old to drive a vehicle
used in interstate commerce.
346 of the appropriations bill says, “None of the funds
in this Act may be obligated or expended by the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration for the development
or implementation of a pilot program for the purpose of
allowing commercial drivers 18 to 20 years of age to operate
the trucks and buses of motor carriers in interstate commerce.”
contended the program would ease what the group called
a driver shortage. The petition set off alarm bells throughout
the industry and prompted immediate opposition from the
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
is simply an effort by motor carriers to find a new source
of people willing to work cheap,” says OOIDA President
Jim Johnston. “And provisions in the proposal that would
hold the driver captive to the carrier until he’s 21 amounts
to no more than indentured servitude.”
TCA proposal did include increased driver training – something
long sought by OOIDA. In fact, the association suggested
the program would be a good addition to the CDL requirements
for persons 21 years old and over.
comments submitted to the FMCSA by Johnston and Paul Cullen
Jr. of The Cullen Law Firm, OOIDA made clear why it opposed
association does not believe that teen-age drivers have
the experience and maturity necessary to take on the responsibilities
and challenges of driving a truck. Although the proposed
training program has merit, it is no substitute for the
maturity and experience that teen-agers lack.
younger drivers behind the wheel of trucks will make the
driving environment less safe for the driver and the public
Mark H. Reddig, associate editor