On September 4, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a pilot program that would allow 18-, 19- and 20-year-old drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce, a move hailed by FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck as an opportunity that will allow the agency to “carefully examine safety, feasibility and possible economic benefits.”
Aimed at curbing the industry’s aging workforce and overall driver shortage, the program seeks to bring data into the initiative to safely remove barriers to entry for the next generation of operators. As 2020 began, the American Trucking Associations estimated a current shortage of over 60,000 drivers, a number that’s expected to rise to over 100,000 in next five years and top more than 160,000 in the five years following, as older operators retire.
Currently, 18- to 20-year-olds are only allowed to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce in 49 states. The FMCSA program would expand on that, permitting drivers to participate if they fall into either of two categories:
1) 18- to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who would operate CMVs 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, or
2) 19- and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles.
Additionally, study group drivers would be prohibited to operate special configuration vehicles hauling passengers or hazardous materials.
The feasibility study is modeled after the DRIVE-Safe Act, bipartisan legislation currently under consideration in the House and Senate that would encourage younger individuals to join the trucking industry. Enhancing safety and training standards, the proposed bill includes a two-step program for prospective young drivers to complete once they obtain a CDL. As the legislation presently stands, these drivers would be required 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.
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