An interesting but flawed pilot program by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was inserted into the FAST Act. This program will use drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 with military driving experience in interstate commerce. This is interesting because trucking advocates such as ATA and the Truckload Carriers Association have long pressed for 18 year olds to be eligible for interstate CDLs. Flawed because this is such a small pool it will be hard to accurately measure the results.
Industry groups want to lower the CDL age for a few reasons. One is that they see this as an ideal way to address the driver shortage. By 2024 the shortage is expected to reach 175,000. Another is that they feel that a person won’t consider a career in trucking if they have to wait till they are 21. Safety advocacy groups are steadfast against lowering the CDL age. It should be noted that there are many who believe that regulatory heavy-handedness and poor pay are what contributes to the driver shortage. If those conditions improve, they argue, so will the driver supply.
This is such a fascinating issue because all sides make valid points. However, on the East Coast and especially in the New York Metro area it is worth legitimately exploring lowering the age of interstate CDL drivers. Currently, in New York State an 18 year old can receive a Non-CDL C license. This means that they cannot transport hazardous material or drive a school bus intrastate. They are eligible to transport other freight within New York. This means that an 18 year old can transport cargo from Brooklyn to Buffalo but not from Harlem to Hoboken. It seems reasonable to limit drivers ages 18-21 to day trips only (and no hazmat). The issue is our day trips can go as far as Massachusetts. Logically, the requirements should deal more with distance in time not arbitrary borders.