FMCSA Proposes Program to Allow CMV Drivers as Young as 18 to Operate Cross-Country
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing a new pilot program which would allow drivers as young as 18 years of age to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMV) in interstate commerce.
In an announcement on Friday, the FMCSA said it is requesting public comments on a new pilot program to study CMV drivers under the age of 21.
CMV drivers who can be considered for the pilot program must fall into one of two categories:
1) 18 to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who operate CMVs in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer, or
2) 19 and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles.
The Agency said the study group drivers would not be allowed to operate vehicles hauling passengers or hazardous materials or special configuration vehicles.
This new proposed pilot program is just the latest in the Agency’s ongoing efforts to change the regulatory environment regarding under-21 CMV drivers.
In July 2018, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the details of the Commercial Driver Pilot Program required under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which allowed certain 18 to 20-year-olds with military training to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.
However, the Agency quickly discovered filling the program with applicants was a challenge because most military personnel who have experience driving large vehicles are at least 21 years of age already.
So, in May of 2019, the FMCSA announced it would seek public comment on a potential non-military under-21 pilot program.
Today’s announcement is the next step in that process.
“This action will allow the Agency to carefully examine the safety, feasibility, and possible economic benefits of allowing 18 to 20-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck. “Safety is always FMCSA’s top priority, so we encourage drivers, motor carriers, and interested citizens to review this proposed new pilot program and share their thoughts and opinions.”
Public comments will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
Refer to Docket number FMCSA-2018-0346 when making your comment.
DRIVE-Safe Act Stalled
Many trucking stakeholders have long desired legislative or regulatory action to allow under-21 CMV drivers to operate across state lines.
In February of 2019, bi-partisan legislation called the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act (DRIVE-Safe Act) was re-introduced into the U.S. House and Senate that would effectively allow 18-year-olds to obtain a CDL and operate cross-country.
Proponents such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) maintained the legislation was needed to address the so-called “driver shortage.”
However, opponents contended the driver shortage narrative is a “myth” and that lowering the age limit will only create more danger on our nation’s roadways.
The DRIVE-Safe Act has essentially stalled in Congress.