Only a few days remain to comment on a controversial Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that would allow drivers who are under 21 to operate interstate.

The FMCSA is accepting public comment on a pilot program to allow 18, 19, and 20 year olds to operate commercial vehicles interstate through November 9, 2020. So far, 89 public comments have been received.

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.

You can view a sample of some of the submitted comments below.

Stone Gregory:

“I think it would be a huge mistake to allow under 21 year old drivers. There are a few exceptions, those who have grown up in and around a truck, that doesn’t justify opening it up to all 18 to 21 years old. This is just a gimmick by the big carriers to get lower paying help.

If you are concerned about insurance rates now, let this pass and watch what happens. I started driving when I was 16 but things were different back then. I would hate to see the gates opened to anyone under 21. The biggest problem would be their electronics and their maturity. Let them join the military if they want travel and excitement!!”

Michael Stephenson:

“Due to the and inexperience, distractions such as cell phones, and imaturity of 18,19, & 20 year olds I disagree with allowing them to drive commercial motor vehicles on an interstate or highway. I drive double fuel tankers and I have 20 years plus driving experience in the Western States. I believe it would jeopardize the safety of other truckers and other motorists on the road to allow this age group to drive and operate a commercial motor vehicle. Also look at the adverse driving conditions of the western United States in the winter, most of these age groups have no experience driving in winter weather”

James Zuber:

“I am not against younger drivers but they need to properly trained. I say do a pilot program and start in high school have trucking companies or qualified drivers train them about the 80000 pound vehicle they will be driving. have someone well versed in the law. someone from the hr. And safety department. It should be a 3 year program and teach them everything from the mechanical operation over the vehicle to law what companies offer what to expect when they actually get on the road and in the first year let them acutely ride along to see if the acutely like driving and being away from home friends and family. because this life isn’t for everyone. then after they have completed and graduated high school and the program they somewhat understand what they are getting into and any company hiring them should have to put them with a trainer for 1 year so they get to drive in all the seasons. as for letting the mega carriers train them with the current training standards no they have abused their privlage and have done a horrible job of training.the 3 year in high school training along with driving and ride alongs is the only way I would endorse this program. I have many more ideas that could save lives”

You can click here to add your comment.

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