Federal Pilot Program Considers Opening Long-Distance Trucking to 18-Year-Olds

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Jan 05, 2021 in Auto Accident

truck driver young maleA pilot program being introduced by a federal agency proposes allowing drivers as young as 18 to operate commercial trucks across state lines. The trucking industry supports this proposal and believes the program could help to reduce instability in the workforce.

Various safety organizations oppose the plan and believe any program that permits drivers under 21 to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) would inevitably lead to more crashes.

Rizk Law discusses the proposed plan, the very real concerns for these young drivers, as well as the obvious risks for increased danger to others on the roadways.

What is the Federal Pilot Trucking Program?

The idea behind the federal pilot trucking program is to recruit and provide work for individuals who have no college degree and have not yet begun a career. The proposed program is not new and has, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, been around for at least twenty years.

Recent interest in the program is due to a bipartisan group in Congress. These lawmakers propose making the pilot part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Under-21 Commercial Driver Pilot Program, which aims to allow drivers between the ages of 18-20 to drive a CMV for interstate commerce.

While drivers under 21 are already permitted to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate a CMV, they are not allowed to take it across state lines.

Trucking companies say approval of this pilot could enable them to approach and recruit drivers in high schools.

Program Requirements

As of 2019, the plans and requirements for the three-year federal “under 21” pilot program were proposed to include:

  • Recruitment of 200 drivers, at a minimum
  • 240 hours of probationary driving OR
  • One year and 25,000 miles of driving experience within state lines
  • The use of trucking technologies, such as automatic braking
  • Video cameras to record the drivers
  • Speed limiting devices set to 65 mph

The program does not allow these drivers to operate buses or vehicles containing hazardous materials.

Why Recruit 18-year-old Drivers?

Bill Sullivan, executive vice president for advocacy at the American Trucking Associations (ATA), said, “The reason that we want to reach people at the beginning of their work life is so we can present a career in trucking that can support their life and career over a longer period of time.”

The Reality

On October 23, 2020, the ATA board endorsed a comprehensive automated truck policy. However, if driverless trucking becomes the norm, an apparent goal, it could impact millions of Americans already in the industry, leaving many, including newer drivers, without jobs.

Of the endorsement, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said, “Automated and connected vehicle technologies have the potential to dramatically impact nearly all aspects of the trucking industry.”

Per a 60 Minutes interview shared by Rizk Law back in August 2020, global tech giants, including Tesla and Google, are pushing to compete in the potentially billion-dollar driverless trucking industry. Test runs have already happened on Florida highways – without a driver – as recently as last summer.

It seems more likely, given this information, that a driverless trucking industry could be here sooner than later. If this is true, will young drivers really have a career that can “support their life and career over a longer period of time”?

Inexperienced Drivers are More Likely to Cause an Accident

In addition to the possibility of having a considerably shorter career than expected, the real danger is that 18-year-olds are inexperienced and immature drivers. There is no doubt these characteristics are not an asset behind the wheel of a large commercial 18-wheeler or semi-truck and could lead to more serious accidents on our roadways.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recognizes the long-time labor concerns in the industry however, they also question the current proposed plan.

NTSB chairman Robert L. Sumwalt says, “The NTSB does not believe that allowing an age group of drivers who are consistently overrepresented in crash involvement and who might not yet have the cognitive maturity to safely operate commercial vehicles interstate is the right solution to these problems.”

Sumwalt further stated that, “Any solution should come without creating significant safety risk to the rest of the motoring public.”

Injured in a Trucking Accident? Our Firm is Prepared to Help

At Rizk Law, we have extensive experience representing individuals injured by negligent CMV drivers throughout the state. Our Vancouver-based truck accident attorneys are prepared to provide the legal help you need. We are dedicated to pursuing the maximum amount of compensation on your behalf.

We are available to take your call anytime, night or day, to schedule your free initial consultation. There is no risk in calling us as you are not obliged to hire our firm. If we do represent you, there is nothing to pay us up front. We do not collect any fees unless we recover compensation for you.