Most owner-ops opposed to allowing under-21 CDL drivers an interstate option

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Updated Apr 3, 2021

With continued movement made in Congress toward raising the profile of the question of whether to allow some interstate option for under-21 CDL drivers, Overdrive readers have weighed in definitively, with a solid majority sounding off against the notion, according to recent polling. Asked whether they'd support interstate work being allowed for under-21 CDL holders (limited to intrastate today, with narrow exceptions in a pilot program for former military), 63% offered a definitive no, "especially when seeing what schools are turning out," added Chip Berryman of what he saw as lax training efforts for new, over-21 interstate drivers today. 

In some ways, the provisions of the recently reintroduced DRIVE Safe Act anticipate such objections. The legislation would "establish an apprenticeship program" for such drivers that would "require a total of 400 on-duty hours and 240 driving hours to complete," according to Overdrive's news about the the Senate's introduction of the bill earlier this month, following the House. "The programs would be split into a 120-hour probationary period and a 280-hour probationary period. To complete each period, under-21 drivers would have to meet certain training requirements."

Around 12% of Overdrive readers signaled possible willingness to support an interstate option for intrastate drivers and flagged boosted training as the key to making it work. Another 4% felt a mileage-range limitation might be a better jurisdictional marker for under-21 CDL drivers than today's use of state lines, a single percent suggesting required monitoring technology could be the best route toward making such a program work.

Circle graph for responses for the question: Would you support an interstate option for under-21 CDL drivers?A vocal minority supported the notion fully, with many commenters at Overdrive's Facebook page pointing to the seeming absurdity of treating 18-year-olds fundamentally differently than other newbies in the business. Wrote Kristopher Jensen, for instance, "What’s the difference between an 18 year old fresh out of driving school and a 50 year old fresh out of driving school?" poll -- March 2021Combine those Maybe responses with those in support and nearly a third of readers did favor a move away from the state-line limitation for most among under-21 CDL holders. 

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As noted Eric Holtmann"I don’t think crossing an imaginary line between states is going to make them drive any different." 

Kirk Reising: "With the proper training, can't be any worse than some of the 'drivers' out there now."

Recently retired owner-operator Gary Buchs, an Overdrive Extra blog contributor hailing from Colfax, Illinois, viewed the current intrastate limitation as arbitrary, at best. "I live about an hour from a state line. It makes no logical sense why an 18-20-year-old can drive 400 miles north or south within the state but can’t drive 65 miles East," Buchs noted, commenting under the poll here. "There are ways to make this work as safe as intrastate" does today. 

Yet others brought home the point that insurers seem to make with generally higher premiums for young drivers. A commenter posting only as Kathy said she had been a driver trainer "for years, and I taught public school, too, and the vast majority of younger drivers are just not mature enough."

Mike Ault, commenting at Overdrive's Facebook page, shared his effort to insure his 23-year-old son trucking with his company, with just a single year of experience. "$19,000 per year. Good luck." 

"Most accidents happen in cars to drivers under 25," Kathy continued, "so we could expect the accident rate to increase if drivers under 21 are hired. This impacts the safety of our families, too. ... I vote no! What we need are better training programs, better trainers, better treatment from DOT and law enforcement, more parking places, and other incentives to help drivers stay and not quit."

The Drive Safe Act follows the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration floating a proposal to conduct a pilot program for interstate CDL drivers last year, after a similar one specifically for military-trained drivers.  

Find further reading on the subject via links under the poll at this page.