Federal regulators July 3 announced plans to permit 18-20 year-olds with the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver license to operate large trucks in interstate commerce in a pilot program that will monitor their driving safety records.
“This program will allow our veterans and reservists to translate their extensive training into good-paying jobs operating commercial vehicles safely across the country, while also addressing the nationwide driver shortage,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in an announcement from Omaha, Neb.
The announcement did not say when the program would begin, but noted the pilot could run for up to three years. Before the pilot can officially commence, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is required by federal statute to allow a public comment period and be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget prior to publication in the Federal Register.
“Each of the covered drivers will be hired and monitored by motor carriers approved by FMCSA in accordance with the program guidelines,” said a document outlining the pilot program. “The motor carriers will monitor each of the covered drivers just as they would all their drivers.”
Specifically, the pilot would require the safety records of the young former military drivers to be compared with the records of a control group of drivers.
The announcement said that if at any time a driver participating in the program is disqualified for a major offense, serious traffic violations, railroad-highway grade crossing or violation of an out-of-service order, he or she will be disqualified and removed from the program.
To qualify for the pilot, an 18-, 19-, or 20-year-old driver with military training must have one of seven military occupational specialties. The specialties are Army motor transport operator, Army fueler, Air Force vehicle operations, Air Force fueler, Air Force pavement and construction, Navy equipment operator and Marine Corps motor vehicle operator.
A driver in the program would not be allowed to transport passengers or hazardous materials.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), the program’s key architect, had pushed for the pilot to be included in the 2015 transportation law.
“As our nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, Secretary Chao and I were excited to highlight a program I helped champion to provide truck driver jobs to young veterans,” said Fischer.