FMCSA seeks comments on expanded pilot program for under-21 nonmilitary drivers

July 2019

Mark Schremmer

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requesting comments on a potential second pilot program to allow 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

In July 2018, FMCSA published a notice announcing the details of a pilot program that would allow 18- to 20-year-old military veterans and reservists to drive interstate. A possible second pilot program would involve nonmilitary drivers.

FMCSA’s notice and request for comments regarding the second pilot program published in the Federal Register on May 15.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is against the continued efforts to allow younger truck drivers to cross state lines, saying it will lead to a decrease in safety and allow large motor carriers to pay lower wages.

“OOIDA naturally has concerns about efforts by large motor carriers to allow teenagers to become interstate drivers,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs. “First and foremost, research and data has consistently indicated younger drivers are less safe behind the wheel than their older counterparts.

“Additionally, expanding the driver pool won’t solve large motor carriers’ precarious retention problem, which they knowingly misidentify as a driver shortage. We suspect bringing younger drivers into the long-haul industry will enable these carriers to continue to ignore the problems that have kept driver turnover rates exceptionally high – increasingly poor working conditions and inadequate compensation. In fact, lowering the minimum age requirement for interstate drivers to 18 may very well exacerbate these problems.”

The OOIDA Foundation has cited statistics that younger drivers are more likely to receive a traffic conviction or violation, and a recent federal report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics affirmed OOIDA’s stance that there isn’t a shortage of truck drivers.

OOIDA contends that without a driver shortage, there seems to be no justification for the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would lower the interstate driving age to 18. Current federal regulations allow 18- to 20-year-old drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle within a state.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters also spoke out against FMCSA’s attempt to start a second pilot program.

“The decision by the FMCSA to propose a pilot program that would lower the commercial driver’s license restriction from 21 to 18 is of grave concern to those who use the roadways as their workplace every day,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement.

Hoffa added that the FAST Act approved a pilot program specifically for military veterans.

“FMCSA was told it could do so in a highly controlled manner using only veterans and other members of the military who had experience during their time in the service,” he said. “That safeguard was an important step toward counteracting the enormous safety risks inherent with having teenagers running tractor trailers across long distances. Ignoring that decision and unilaterally deciding to explore a much broader pilot program represents a dismissive wave of the hand to the will of Congress.”

FMCSA requests comments on the training, qualifications, driving limitations, and vehicle safety systems the agency should consider in developing options or approaches for a second pilot program for younger drivers.

“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 Ray Martinez said in a news release. “We encourage all commercial motor vehicle stakeholders to submit comments on a potential interstate pilot program for younger drivers.”

Comments will be accepted until July 15 and can be submitted at Regulations.gov by including Docket ID FMCSA-2018-0346, or by mailing Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of Transportation; 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE; West Building Ground Floor Room W-12-140; Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. LL

 

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, associate editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.

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