Push for under-21 truck drivers continues

May 15, 2019

Mark Schremmer


Supporters of allowing under-21 truck drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle across state lines are continuing their attempts to make it a reality.

FMCSA’s notice and request for comments about a potential second pilot program to allow 18- to 20-year-olds to drive interstate was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, May 15. Meanwhile, the DRIVE-Safe Act, which would create an apprenticeship program for under-21 drivers to drive in interstate commerce, was up to 66 co-sponsors as of Wednesday morning.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association remains opposed to lowering the driving age. Current regulations allow 18- to 20-year-olds to drive intrastate. OOIDA has said allowing under-21 truck drivers in interstate commerce would be detrimental to highway safety.

“Younger drivers – especially teenagers – generally lack the maturity and experience to operate a commercial motor vehicle at the safest levels,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer wrote to lawmakers after the DRIVE-Safe Act was introduced on Feb. 26. “Research consistently concludes that commercial motor vehicle drivers under the age of 21 are more likely to be involved in crashes. In some states, teenagers entering the apprentice program created by the legislation would have only recently received a full driver’s license to operate an automobile, let alone a commercial motor vehicle.”

The OOIDA Foundation has cited statistics that under-21 truck drivers are more likely to receive a traffic conviction or violation, and a recent federal report 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 intrastate.

“For decades, our country’s largest motor carriers and trade associations in Washington, D.C., that represent them have touted the myth of a driver shortage as a means to promote policies designed to maintain the cheapest labor supply possible,” Spencer wrote. “Experience tells us many of those entities pushing for a change in the current minimum-age requirement would simply use it to take advantage of a new pool of drivers – teenagers, who would be subjected to poor working conditions, predatory lease-to-own schemes, and woefully inadequate compensation.”

The House version of the DRIVE-Safe Act, HR1374, was introduced by Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind., in February. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., introduced S569 on the same day. The Senate version is up to 13 co-sponsors. Neither bill has made any movement since being introduced.

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

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 under-21 trcuk drivers.

Comments will be accepted until July 15 and can be submitted online here, or by including Docket ID FMCSA-2018-0346, and 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.