Effort in Missouri calls for younger interstate CMV drivers

| 4/25/2006

The Missouri House has approved a resolution calling for the federal government to consider lowering the minimum age for interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Sponsored by Rep. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence, the House Concurrent Resolution, HCR18, encourages the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish a pilot program to evaluate lowering the age requirements from 21 years of age to 18.

The resolution also calls on the federal government to include “behind-the-wheel” training for commercial drivers, which is something the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association requested when it challenged the FMCSA’s driver training rule. A federal court ruled in favor of OOIDA in December 2005 and ordered the agency to rewrite the rule.

Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, who chairs the Missouri House committee that sent the resolution to the House floor for consideration, said the resolution amounts to a symbolic gesture.

“The intention was to raise awareness to the issue. It does not do anything to change state law. It’s nonbinding,” Pratt told Land Line.

Since April 1992, drivers have been required by the Federal Highway Administration to have a commercial driver’s license to get behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle.

States are allowed to issue CDLs to qualified people 18 years of age or older if they are an intrastate operation. Kuessner’s effort attempts to include interstate operation in the same rule.

The resolution also calls for the FMCSA to “include behind-the-wheel training, mentoring and an evaluation component” for prospective drivers.

Kuessner wrote that the pilot program “has the potential of relieving a severe commercial motor vehicle driver shortage in the states and nation, and creating excellent career opportunities.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said this effort is another tact by carriers to influence public policy.

“They’re trying to put lipstick on a pig. While it is certainly true the industry is sorely in need of meaningful required driver training standards and on-the-job training, unfortunately maturity is not something that can be taught. Accident statistics overwhelmingly show that younger drivers are going to be involved in more, and more serious, crashes. If age is any determinant of the likelihood of accidents, statistics show that we shouldn’t be considering taking it down. We should consider taking it up,” Spencer said.

The resolution has been sent to the state’s Senate for consideration. If approved there, it would be presented to the FMCSA and Missouri’s congressional delegation.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor