- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is seeking public comment on a proposed pilot program that would allow drivers aged 18 to 20 to drive commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce, the agency announced Tuesday in a press release.
- "We want input from the public on efforts that offer the potential to create more jobs in the commercial motor vehicle industry, while maintaining the highest level of safety," FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said in a statement.
- Last summer, the Department of Transportation announced a pilot that would allow drivers aged 18 to 20 with military experience to operate large trucks in interstate commerce. This proposed pilot would do the same for those without military experience. The public comment period will be open until July 15, 2019, according to a posting on the Federal Register.
The FMCSA is looking for comments on training, qualification and safety issues that should be considered for this second pilot program. It is specifically looking for available safety data on 18- to 20-year-old drivers currently operating commercial vehicles in intrastate commerce.
This is an effort years in the making. The FMCSA said it was petitioned to consider this change as far back as Oct. 2, 2000 when the Truckload Carriers Association asked the agency to consider such a pilot. The FMCSA held a public comment period the next year and received 1,600 comments, with 90% of them opposed on the basis younger drivers lack the maturity for the job, the agency explained in its Federal Register posting.
"None explained how interstate drivers under 21 would diminish safety when most States have concluded that intrastate drivers under 21 do not do so," FMCSA said of the 2001 comments. "Very few truck drivers and motor carriers commented, but most of them also opposed the pilot program." The petition was denied in 2003.
Proponents of this change say it will bring more drivers into the workforce at a time when the industry is struggling to recruit drivers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently disputed these shortage reports, saying the "labor market for truck drivers works about as well as the labor markets for other blue-collar occupations." The American Trucking Associations said BLS made "critical errors" in its assessment, according to Transportation Topics.
News of this pilot comes as the DRIVE-Safe Act, which looks to lower the driving age for interstate commerce to 18, has remained in Congress without a vote for three months. It was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Todd Young and in the House by Rep. Trey Hollingsworth in February. It was also introduced in both chambers of Congress the last session but was never voted on. The act is highlighted in FMCSA's Federal Register posting as looking to accomplish goals similar to what the pilot proposes.