On September 10, 2020, the FMCSA submitted a new notice related to the pilot program, which allows drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. According to the law, a person who has reached the age of 18 can become a driver of a commercial vehicle. However, when it comes to interstate transportation, 49 CFR 383.5 and 390.5 require a truck driver to be at least 21 years old. That is why the FMCSA has proposed a pilot program that will exempt participating drivers from the above requirement, which applies to the minimum age of drivers traveling between states.
Comments on this notice must be received before November 9, 2020.
Previously, on May 15, 2019, the FMCSA submitted a notice to the Federal Register asking for public comment on a similar pilot program. Then, over 1000 comments have been received from various state and private organizations. Someone spoke in favor of a pilot project, someone offered support, and someone was categorically opposed. We propose considering the controversial aspects of the previous discussion, which will be taken into account when developing the new pilot program.
Training and Experience
Several commentators, including Advocates and the UMA, believe that drivers under 21 should have more driving experience for road safety. It was also suggested that such truckers should be under the strict supervision of experienced instructors at all times or for a specified period. However, other commentators believe that additional experience is not needed.
Most commentators agreed that younger drivers should spend fewer hours driving. However, if we talk about intrastate transportation, there are no time or destination restrictions for drivers under 21 years old. Therefore, some organizations do not see any sense in such restrictions.
Earlier, a survey was conducted on whether it is necessary to install additional technical safety equipment. For example, speed limiters, automatic transmissions, collision avoidance systems, the live recording of events, etc. Almost everyone who took part in the survey supported the idea. Some of them also offered additional devices: artificial intelligence, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning systems, and so on.
An interesting NHTSA report was presented on truck accidents involving junior drivers. Drivers aged 16 to 20 had a lower rate of involvement in fatal crashes than drivers in the age range 21 to 24. Besides, in 13 states, CDL holders between 18 and 20 had lower road crash rates than their older colleagues.
Two Categories for Participations
The FMCSA allowed drivers to participate in the pilot program if they fit into one of two categories.
The first category provides that drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 will be able to travel between states taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer, as introduced in the DRIVE-Safe Act. Young drivers need to be competent in a variety of trucking-related areas, ranging from interstate and urban traffic to map reading and navigation. As a result, the FMCSA believes that the pilot program participants will be able to acquire all the necessary skills for cross-border trade.
According to the second category, 19 and 20-year-old drivers can participate in the program if they have worked in domestic trade for at least 1 year and have driven 25,000 miles. The agency believes these truckers have enough experience to meet safety standards.
The pilot program does not include driving vehicles for passenger transportation and trucks carrying hazardous materials. Besides, to ensure that junior drivers have sufficient experience to drive safely on interstate highways, the FMCSA proposes that pilot participants take CDL training that complies with ELDT rule standards before receiving their CDL.