The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced Friday (Sept. 4) it’s seeking comment on a new pilot program to allow drivers under 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce, and the trade group American Trucking Associations supports the proposal.
The proposal by the FMCSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, comes a week after it announced seeking comment on a pilot program to ease restrictions on existing hours-of-service rules by allowing participating drivers to pause their on-duty driving period with one off-duty period up to three hours.
The most recent pilot program would allow younger drivers to operate in interstate commerce.
“This action will allow the agency to carefully examine the safety, feasibility and possible economic benefits of allowing 18 to 20-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck said. “Safety is always FMCSA’s top priority, so we encourage drivers, motor carriers and interested citizens to review this proposed new pilot program and share their thoughts and opinions.”
The proposal will allow drivers to participate if they are in one of the following two categories: They are 18- to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license holders who operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer. Or, they are 19- and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated commercial motor vehicles in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles. The drivers who participate in the pilot program would not be allowed to operate vehicles hauling passengers or hazardous materials or special configuration vehicles.
“This is a significant step toward improving safety on our nation’s roads, setting a standard for these drivers that is well beyond what 49 states currently require,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This is an amazing block of talent with unlimited potential. If our freedom can be defended from tyranny around the world by our men in women in uniform, many well below the age of 21, then it’s quite clear that we can train that same group how to safely and responsibly cross state lines in a commercial vehicle.”
Existing law in 49 states and the District of Columbia allow 18- to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license holders to operate commercial motor vehicles in intrastate commerce, or hauling freight within one state.
The FMCSA’s most recent pilot program is modeled on the bipartisan DRIVE Safe Act, which was supported by the ATA and more than 90 other industry groups and co-sponsored by 144 U.S. representatives and 34 senators.
“Using good data, not emotions, is an important part of good policymaking,” Spear said. “We appreciate Secretary Chao and Deputy Administrator proposing this pilot program and asking for comments on their proposal so we can have good data on this important issue. The proposal has a 60-day comment period, and ATA will be providing supportive comments on FMCSA’s proposal.”
Link here for the Federal Register notice on the program.