A proposed pilot program by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will allow drivers as young as 18 years old to haul heavy cargo in commercial trucks across state lines. This pending legislation, backed by a bipartisan group of policymakers, would lower the age of long-haul truckers and address the growing shortage of truck drivers in the United States. The program, however, does have some experts and safety advocates concerned.
Right now, truckers under the age of 21 are permitted to drive within state lines only while operating a commercial vehicle. So, an “underage” truck driver can haul cargo within Arizona, but can’t cross into California or New Mexico, for example. The FMCSA’s proposed program, however, aims to assess the pros and cons of allowing commercial vehicle drivers as young as 18 to start crossing state lines.
How would the FMSCA program work?
The FMSCA announced their proposed program in September 2020. Drivers would be eligible if they fall into one of two categories:
- “18 to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who 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
- 19 and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles”
The announcement also added that the study group drivers would not be allowed to operate trucks hauling passengers or hazardous materials.
The FMCSA said in their press release, “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. 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.”
(Note: Public commenting is now closed.)
Are teen truck drivers more dangerous?
Although the goal of the pilot program is to assess the risks and benefits of lowering the age of long-haul truckers, we can look to some existing data about teen drivers. The CDC reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. And, opponents of the program have done their own research, penning a public letter about teen commercial motor vehicle drivers (CMV) with some startling statistics:
- CMV drivers younger than 19 are 4 times more likely to be involved in fatal truck crashes.
- CMV drivers between the ages of 19 and 20 are 6 times more likely to be involved in fatal truck crashes.
- Younger drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take more risks.
- The portions of the brain vital to decision-making (the pre-frontal cortex) may not be fully reached until the mid-20s.
If you suffered injuries in a collision or crash with a commercial truck, you need a good personal injury lawyer. Talk to the attorneys at Plattner Verderame, P.C. today for experienced representation. We can help you seek compensation for your injuries and losses. Please call us at 602-266-2002 or complete our contact form to arrange a time to speak with one of our experienced attorneys. We maintain offices in Phoenix and in Tempe to better serve you.
Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
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