Teamsters join fight against push for younger drivers

May 22, 2019

Mark Schremmer


The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is speaking out against the FMCSA’s attempt to start a second pilot program that would allow under-21 drivers to operate heavy-duty trucks in interstate commerce.

Like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Teamsters believe allowing 18- to 20-year-old drivers to cross state lines would be a detriment to highway safety.

On May 15, FMCSA published a notice and request for comments regarding a pilot program that would allow nonmilitary 18- to 20-year-olds to drive interstate. In July 2018, FMCSA published a notice announcing the details of a program that would allow younger drivers with military training to operate in interstate commerce.

Current federal regulations restrict 18- to 20-year-olds to intrastate driving.

“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 will accept 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 until July 15. Comments can be submitted here.

OOIDA has also spoken out against efforts to lower the driving age, 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.”

The Association also contends that the push for lowering the driving age has been linked to the idea that the trucking industry was facing a driver shortage. However, a recent federal report affirmed OOIDA’s longtime stance that there is no driver shortage.

“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,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “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.”