FMCSA proposes new under-21 commercial driver pilot program

trucks parked at truck stop with CAT scale in the background
FMCSA’s Federal Register notice requests comments on a new pilot program that would allow younger drivers to operate in interstate commerce.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today (Sept. 4) announced that it is proposing and seeking public comments on a new pilot program to allow drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce.

“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,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck. “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.”

FMCSA’s Federal Register notice requests comments on a new pilot program that would allow younger drivers to operate in interstate commerce. The agency proposes a pilot program to allow drivers to participate if they fall within two categories:

  • 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; or
  • 19- and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles. The study group drivers would not be allowed to operate vehicles hauling passengers or hazardous materials or special configuration vehicles.

David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association noted that this is a step toward gathering beneficial data needed to analyze allowing these drivers to operate across state lines.

“TCA will be submitting comments in support of the proposed pilot program, as it represents yet another opportunity for our industry to highlight the safe driving practices and accident reduction technology that professional truck drivers use on our roads today,” Heller said. “This pilot program should provide meaningful data regarding the driving force of our industry that adds to the already tremendous support to further examine allowing younger drivers, ages 18-20, to operate on our highways.”

The American Trucking Associations echoed that support for the program, thanking the Trump administration and the U.S. DOT for moving forward with the pilot program. The group noted that it also plans to provide supportive comments for the initiative.

“This is a significant step toward improving safety on our nation’s roads, setting a standard for these drivers that is well beyond what 49 states currently require,” said Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO. “This is an amazing block of talent with unlimited potential. If our freedom can be defended from tyranny around the world by our men in women in uniform, many well below the age of 21, then it’s quite clear that we can train that same group how to safely and responsibly cross state lines in a commercial vehicle.”

Currently, 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.

In July 2018, FMCSA announced the details of a Military Commercial Driver Pilot Program, which allows certain 18 to 20-year-olds with military training to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.

To view this Federal Register Notice and learn more about the proposed pilot program, click here.

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  1. People of this age group haven’t had enough experience driving cars yet and you want them to handle 80,000 lbs. Machine professionally! People are already driving then like their car! No safety in their thought process.


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