FMCSA pushes forward new pilot program to allow 18 — 20 year old truck drivers to operate interstate

On Friday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced plans to explore a new pilot program to allow under 21 year olds to operate commercial vehicles interstate.

The program proposed on September 4 would allow 18 — 20 year old drivers to participate in the pilot if they meet one of the following two conditions:

  1. 18 to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who operate CMVs in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer.
  2. 19 and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles. 

To complete the 280 hour probationary period described in condition 1, an employer must ensure that the younger driver is competent in each of the following areas:

  • Backing and maneuvering in close quarters
  • Pre-trip inspections
  • Fueling procedures
  • Weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems
  • Coupling and uncoupling procedure
  • Trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation, and permits

Pilot program participants would not be allowed to operate vehicles transporting passengers or hazmat.

“This action will allow the Agency to carefully examine the safety, feasibility, and possible economic benefits of allowing 18 to 20-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce. Safety is always FMCSA’s top priority, so we encourage drivers, motor carriers, and interested citizens to review this proposed new pilot program and share their thoughts and opinions,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck. 

This new pilot program builds on a similar pilot program proposed last year while Raymond Martinez was acting as FMCSA Administrator. In May 2019, FMCSA requested public comments on a pilot program to allow 18 — 20 year olds without military driving experience to operate interstate. A pilot program to allow 18 — 20 year olds with military experience was introduced in the summer of 2018. The pilot program proposed under Deck’s administration on Friday was crafted based on feedback provided by public comment to the 2019 proposal.

The FMCSA points out that 49 states and the District of Columbia already allow 18 to 20 year old CDL holders to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce—meaning under 21 drivers may currently drive within state borders, such as from Houston to El Paso or from Miami to Tallahassee.

For more information on the pilot program, please click here.