Younger drivers crash more, OOIDA tells FMCSA

August 12, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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In comments about FMCSA’s proposed pilot program for under-21 drivers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association reminded the agency that its primary mission is to reduce crashes involving large trucks and buses.

“When it comes to highway safety, the data is clear – younger drivers and inexperienced drivers crash more,” OOIDA wrote in its formal comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer. “This is why OOIDA strongly opposes a pilot program that would allow drivers under the age of 21 to operate in interstate commerce.”

In May, FMCSA issued a notice and request for comments regarding a second pilot program for under-21 drivers. A previous pilot program involving 18- to 20-year-old military veterans and reservists is in the process of being launched by FMCSA. This version would be for nonmilitary drivers.

OOIDA said statistics show any move toward lowering the driving age would be a detriment to safety.

“Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, according to the National Center for Health Statistics,” OOIDA wrote. “A 2017 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analysis on younger drivers found that ‘8.3% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were young drivers. However, young drivers were only 5.4% of all licensed drivers in 2017.’”

Currently, 18- to 20-year-olds are allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle intrastate but are not allowed to cross state lines.

“For commercial motor vehicles, drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than all truck drivers and CMV drivers between the ages of 19-20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes compared to all truck drivers,” OOIDA wrote.

Much of the push for lowering the driving age has been in response to the American Trucking Associations’ claims of a driver shortage. However, OOIDA has long contended that the driver shortage is a myth, 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.

“For decades, our country’s largest motor carriers and the trade associations that represent them have perpetuated the myth of a driver shortage as a means to promote policies designed to maintain the cheapest labor supply possible,” OOIDA wrote. “We are concerned the agency is indicating its acceptance of this notion by moving forward with this unsafe proposal …

“Experience tells us many of the entities pushing for the change in the current 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.”

FMCSA is accepting comments on the pilot program until Aug. 14. Comments can be made at the Regulations.gov website by using docket number FMCSA-2018-0346.

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.