What Opponents of FMCSA’s New Teen Trucker Program Are Saying

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part Transportation Nation Network series exploring what industry groups are saying about the FMCSA’s upcoming teen trucker pilot program.

Click HERE for part two to find out why supporters are still concerned.


Washington D.C. — Trucking and highway safety groups are sounding off on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new teen trucker pilot program.

As Transportation Nation Network (TNN) recently reported, the FMCSA is seeking “emergency approval” from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to begin both a 60-day and a 30-day public comment period in order to launch the program which would allow drivers as young as 18-years-old to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.


The FMCSA has dubbed the initiative the “Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program” (SDAPP) and will allow for 1,000 motor carriers to hire as many as 3,000 apprentices ages 18, 19, and 20, to participate at any one time.

Groups opposing and in favor of the program have weighed in with public comments.

TNN will first look at those who oppose or have deep concerns about the program.

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association

“We believe that licensing under-21 drivers for interstate commerce will lead to more crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks, especially if the SDAPP is implemented without establishing comprehensive safety oversight,” wrote Todd Spencer, president and CEO of OOIDA. “Before moving forward with the program, we urge the agency to include additional data collection metrics that will enhance the quality of the information gathered during the SDAPP and will help ensure that the pilot program accurately determines if under-21 drivers can perform safely throughout the country.”


Spencer further argued the “country’s largest motor carriers, and the trade associations that represent them” have falsely pushed the “driver shortage myth” for decades in order to “maintain the cheapest labor supply possible.”

“Experience tells us many of the entities that have pushed for the SDAPP will use it to take advantage of teenage drivers, who might be subjected to poor working conditions, predatory lease-to-own schemes, and woefully inadequate compensation. Without addressing the underlying circumstances that have led to excessive churn, we anticipate turnover rates will remain precariously high or even increase — no matter the age of the driver,” Spencer commented.


Moreover, Spencer contended while the SDAPP will benefit mega carriers, it will leave smaller carriers further behind due to the cost of insuring teen drivers.

“Small-business motor carriers are especially unlikely to take the risk of insuring under-21 drivers when evaluating the costs and benefits to their operations. In all likelihood, only self-insured carriers will be willing to provide coverage for under-21 interstate drivers,” he said.

Truck Safety Coalition 

In a seven-page public comment, the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) said it “vehemently” opposes the SDAPP and called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to “terminate the program immediately.”

“This program is not in the public interest and defies all available evidence on record for teen driving safety,” TSC said, citing numerous warnings of caution from organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).


Additionally, the TSC urged the FMCSA to first study existing intrastate data collected from teen truckers before launching an interstate study.

“The entire premise that a teen trucking pilot program is necessary to generate meaningful teen driving data for analysis is nonsensical. Forty-nine (49) states already allow truck drivers under the age of 21 to obtain CDLs for intrastate driving. Before embarking on an ill-advised federal inter-state pilot, the pre-existing abundance of teen trucking data in these 49 states and motor carrier internal records must be collected and analyzed by FMCSA.”

REAL Women in Trucking

The REAL Women in Trucking (RWIT) association expressed concerns about how the SDAPP could impact safety.

“The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16–19 than among any other age group,” wrote RWIT. “In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers in this age group are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash.”


RWIT also asserted the SDAPP will do little to improve the industry’s poor retention rates citing how large carriers currently deploy student truckers.

“Rather than teach, [large carriers] use student truckers to move team freight and pay them below minimum wage for over 70 hours a week of work. Seventy hours is only what is logged, more work is completed off the logbook and is entirely unpaid,” the group wrote. “The industry needs to look at itself and ask why qualified drivers are not being produced from the incredible number of student truckers that are already entering the system.”

For more comments, you can visit the public docket HERE.


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