Comment period for FMCSA pilot program for under-21 interstate truckers ends next week

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A proposal to expand the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s pilot program for CDL holders under the age of 21 to operate in interstate operations is open for comments until next week — Aug. 14.

FMCSA is asking for public comments on a potential pilot program for non-military-trained drivers under the age of 21 to drive interstate. There is already a pilot program in the works for 18-to-20-year-old CDL holders with military driving experience to drive across state lines.

Both chambers of Congress have also introduced legislation that would allow CDL holders under the age of 21 to drive interstate, but neither bill has seen action since they were introduced in February.

FMCSA says its request for public comments is to help it determine if it should propose the pilot program and, if so, what the parameters of the program should be. Some of the main topics the agency is seeking information on include:

  • Available data on the safety performance of under-21 intrastate truckers
  • Concerns over insuring under-21 drivers for both intrastate and interstate commerce
  • What minimum training should be required for drivers in the pilot program?
  • What kind of supervision should be required?
  • Should there be training requirements for mentors, supervisors or co-drivers of under-21 truckers in the program?
  • Should participating carriers be required to establish a formal apprenticeship program?
  • Should there be time or distance restrictions on younger drivers?
  • Should younger drivers be prohibited from hauling hazmat and oversize/overweight?
  • What standards should carriers and drivers have to meet to participate in the pilot?
  • What should happen if drivers in the pilot are convicted of violations while operating interstate?
  • At what point should a driver or carrier be removed from the program?
  • Should FMCSA require safety equipment or on-board recording systems in the pilot?

A full list of questions FMCSA is seeking comments on can be found in the Federal Register document, which will be published Wednesday. Comments can be filed here through July 15.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the proposed pilot program, saying it would be “detrimental to highway safety.” The group says that teenage drivers “generally lack the maturity and experience to operate a CMV at the safest levels.”

The American Trucking Associations, in contrast, applauded FMCSA’s efforts to expand the under-21 pilot program.

“Right now, 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old drivers are driving trucks in the United States,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “What these pilot programs will do is set out a path for these drivers to fully participate in our industry by allowing them to drive interstate.”

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