The US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced 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 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. 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.
Drivers may participate in the pilot program if they fall within two categories:
- 18 to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who operate commercial vehicles 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.
- 19 and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated commercial vehicles 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, hazardous materials, or special configuration vehicles.
Employers 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
There are various business and interest groups both for and against this pilot. Currently, 49 states and Washington DC already allow 18 to 20-year-old CDL holders to operate commercial vehicles in intrastate commerce, meaning under-21 drivers may currently drive within state borders, such as from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh but they can’t drive from Philadelphia to Newark. So, young driver may already be operating a commercial vehicle.