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FMCSA Proposes Under-21 Program

If you have been following trucking industry news before the coronavirus pandemic hit the forefront, you may remember that Congress debated the DRIVE Safe Act. Apparently that bill died in the halls of Congress, because truckers under the age of 21 still cannot haul freight via semi-truck across state lines. The FMCSA wants to give non-military drivers under 21 another shot, and proposed on Friday the 4th of September that they would be considering allowing 18 to 20-year olds travel rights across state borders.

FMCSA’s Plan

The plan is modeled on the DRIVE Safe Act, so if you are familiar with that bill, you will better understand what the FMCSA hopes to do through their regulation.

The plan is more than simply allowing young adults from controlling multi-ton vehicles, as detractors of the DRIVE Safe Act have pointed out in February that 19-20 is the most dangerous age range for drivers on the planet (those 18 and under make up for experience with extra caution, reducing accidents compared to 19 and 20). There are many safeguards implemented to ensure only the best young drivers obtain interstate travel abilities:

  1. Only a limited number of drivers will participate in the program.
  2. Drivers must already have a CDL with intrastate privileges to qualify.
  3. Beyond having a CDL as outlined in step 2, the driver must also
    1. Take part in a 400-hour probationary apprenticeship program established by an employer or
    2. Have already driven as an intrastate driver for at least one year and 25,000 miles.
  4. After being qualified, the driver would enter the FMCSA’s own pilot program, an apprenticeship that would require safety standards higher than those set in most states for above-21 drivers.

President and CEO of the American Trucking Association Chris Spear is all smiles about the proposed program becoming reality.

“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.” 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.”

Furthermore, members of the pilot program would be forbidden from hauling passengers, hazardous materials, and special configurations.

Conclusion

The FMCSA and trucking industry as a whole hopes that this change in regulation will help recruit new blood into the industry. In a field where there is constantly purported to be a shortage of workers and where the average age seems to grow almost every year, the industry may be on to a solution.

As with all FMCSA proposals, this program cannot go into motion until after it is published in the Federal Register and open for comment for 60 days. As of the time of this writing it has not been published yet, so the program cannot possibly start until November.

What are your thoughts? Is adding new blood and training them to high standards good for the industry to keep it going, or bad as it may lead to more accidents and push rates per mile down due to an increased supply of drivers? Let us know in the comments below.

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