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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is now accepting applications for a pilot program that would allow people between the ages of 18 and 20 who possess the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver license to operate trucks in interstate commerce.
FMCSA announced the pilot program’s launch June 3. The program, slated to run for up to three years, is meant to help veterans and reservists find jobs in the trucking industry.
Current federal law does not allow this age group to drive Class 8 commercial motor vehicles across state lines.
The pilot program, outlined in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, will allow a limited number of people in this age range to drive trucks interstate as long as they possess the military equivalent of a CDL and are sponsored by a participating trucking company. During the program, these drivers’ safety records will be compared to the records of a control group of drivers.
“We are excited to launch this program to help the brave men and women who serve our country explore employment opportunities in the commercial motor vehicle industry,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez in the announcement. “With the nation’s economy reaching new heights, the trucking industry continues to need drivers and have job openings. We encourage veterans and reservists to apply and to learn more about this exciting new program.”
American Trucking Associations estimates that the industry is short at least 50,000 drivers. ATA President Chris Spear has repeatedly identified young people, particularly those with a background of military service, as an untapped pool of talent.
“ATA is pleased to see FMCSA moving forward on this effort to bring younger veterans into the trucking industry,” ATA spokesman Sean McNally said in a statement. “This pilot, along with the broader one the agency has recently outlined, will demonstrate how, with proper training and guidance, younger drivers can be brought into our industry safely.”
This pilot program marks the latest of FMCSA’s efforts to target young people for potential trucking jobs. In mid-May, the agency announced it is seeking public comment on a potential pilot program that would allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to operate trucks interstate.
Specifically, FMCSA requested comments on the training, qualifications, limitations and vehicle safety systems that should be considered in developing options for the pilot.
According to a Federal Register notice, FMCSA is asking for comments in response to two general questions:
- What data are currently available on the safety performance (e.g. crash involvement, etc.) of 18- to 20-year-old drivers operating CMVs in intrastate commerce?
- Are there concerns about obtaining insurance coverage for drivers younger than 21 who operate CMVs in intrastate commerce, and would these challenges be greater for interstate operations?
ATA has supported legislation that would allow 18- to 21-year-olds to drive interstate with proper training.
One such piece of legislation is the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy, or DRIVE-Safe Act, which proposes a two-step program for prospective young drivers to complete once they obtain a commercial driver license. The legislation, introduced in March, would require these drivers to log 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab after earning a CDL. Once completed, the young driver would be able to participate in interstate commerce.