Groups petition FMCSA’s pilot program to boost number of interstate CMV drivers by allowing younger CMU drivers to start in 2019

     The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and 12 other organizations have sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to oppose two House bills that would allow drivers younger than 21 to operate interstate commercial motor vehicles.In the letter, the organizations claim that the push for those bills – a driver shortage – does not exist.
   FMCSA’s pilot program would allow 18- to 21-year-olds who are current or former military members to drive across state lines in CMVs if they have received specific training and are sponsored by a participating motor carrier. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter, would require a driver 21 or older to accompany the apprentice for two probationary periods totaling 400 hours, including 240-plus hours of operating a CMV. The organizations contend that the minimum training standards are “woefully inadequate,” adding that they have “serious concerns” about the potential for drivers as young as 21 to serve as mentors.
   A bill introduced by Rep. Claudia Tenney would change the requirements so drivers in that age group must have a valid commercial driver’s license; a driving record free of citations, violations, or other safety infractions; and who has completed a training program or similar qualifications.
   “Younger drivers both lack overall experience and are less safe behind the wheel than their older counterparts,” the letter states, adding that the group of organizations has “significant concerns about corporate proponents of these proposals using the guise of a national driver shortage to use less expensive and less experienced labor.”
   Rep. Duncan Hunter, the sponsor of another bill that would establish an apprenticeship program for CDL holders who are younger than 21, asked why drivers who are 18 to 21 can transport goods the roughly 500 miles from San Diego to Sacramento in his state, but cannot go the nearly 500 miles from New York to North Carolina.
   Those who have a CDL [are] probably safer than the general population. The problem is the general population of that age group are disproportionately involved in crashes, injuries, and fatalities. That’s something that needs exploration.
   At press time, both bills were with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee.