The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing a pilot program aimed at preparing non-military young drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce, the agency said Tuesday.
The FMCSA is requesting public comments on the training, qualifications, driving limitations, and vehicle safety systems it should consider in developing options or approaches for the program, which would prepare 18- to 20-year-old drivers to operate a CMV across state lines.
The move is yet another step in government and industry-led efforts to expand the pool of commercial truck drivers to address a nationwide driver shortage, proponents said. The FMCSA proposed a similar young driver pilot program last year to allow certain 18- to 20-year-olds with military training to operate CMVs in interstate commerce. In addition, earlier this year federal legislators re-introduced the DRIVE Safe Act, which aims to lift age restrictions that prevent drivers from crossing state lines and improve safety and training through a rigorous apprenticeship program, proponents said.
Currently, 48 states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) and drive trucks at age 18, but federal regulations prevent those drivers from crossing state lines until they turn 21.
"We want input from the public on efforts that offer the potential to create more jobs in the commercial motor vehicle industry, while maintaining the highest level of safety," FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said in a statement announcing the proposal. "We encourage all CMV stakeholders to submit comments on a potential interstate pilot program for younger drivers."
A Federal Register notice provides instructions on how to submit comments, which must be received by July 15, 2019.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) pledged its support for the program Tuesday.
"Allowing younger drivers, who are already moving goods intrastate, to drive interstate is a common-sense step that has support not just from the trucking industry, but from a broad coalition," ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said. "Between FMCSA's proposed pilot project and the bipartisan support for the Drive SAFE Act in Congress, we hope we will soon create a path for more young people to fully participate in our industry."