What people say about proposal for 18-20-year-old drivers

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Updated May 25, 2019

The American Trucking Associations approve of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal for a pilot project to allow 18 to 20-year-old drivers to drive commercial motor vehicles interstate.

The Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association thinks its a bad idea. So do the Teamsters.

And, a lot of other folks are weighing in online. The FMCSA is accepting comments online now through July 15. You can make a comment here.

There currently is a pilot program to allow 18-20-year-old military veterans to drive interstate. Now it wants a similar one for all 18-20-year-olds. The agency is seeking comments on:

  • What is the available data on the safety performance of under-21 intrastate truckers?
  • Are there concerns over insuring under-21 drivers for both intrastate and interstate commerce?
  • What minimum training should be required for drivers in the pilot program?
  • What kind of supervision should be required?
  • Should there be training requirements for mentors, supervisors or co-drivers of under-21 truckers in the program?
  • Should participating carriers be required to establish a formal apprenticeship program?
  • Should there be time or distance restrictions on younger drivers?
  • Should younger drivers be prohibited from hauling hazmat and oversize/overweight?
  • What standards should carriers and drivers have to meet to participate in the pilot?
  • What should happen if drivers in the pilot are convicted of violations while operating interstate?
  • At what point should a driver or carrier be removed from the program?
  • Should FMCSA require safety equipment or onboard recording systems in the pilot?

Among the comments made online are these:

Jon Harvey: “We have enough problems out here with the idiot “professional drivers” out here as it is. Let’s throw gasoline on a fire, that should work. When did large carriers and the ATA ever do anything right in this industry? They are the reason it’s the way it is now. My vote is a big hell no on 18-year-old drivers, military or not. Need to weed out some of the existing ones as well.”

Katrina Thompson: “I have several drivers in their early 20’s and it is a challenge. They just don’t have the maturity they need to be operating a semi. I would hate to see an 18-year-old on the highways. The schools that are turning out these drivers need better regulations. They do not teach them anything other than how to hold the steering wheel, most can’t even back up a truck and trailer.”

Robert King: “I am in favor of lowering the age to 18. This would allow us to help get kids interested and give them a path after high school that will be very valuable to society.”

Daniel Vick: “As a driver for almost 20 years. This will definitely be detrimental to highway safety. Look at the accident rates of teens already. Now you wanna put the same people behind the wheel of up to 80,000 lbs. This is a bad idea all the way around.”

James Hall: “This is the worst idea to come from the FMCSA yet. Every new rule that is implemented keeps making things worse for the trucking industry. Keep the rules that are already in place. An 18-year-old simply doesn’t have the level of maturity and decision-making skills necessary for the job. Most 21-year-olds barely do. The insurance industry has many studies that prove teens are more dangerous behind the wheel of a car than older people. If they aren’t safe in a 3-ton car what on earth makes them safe piloting a 40-ton tractor trailer? Technology cannot make them safe. Radar lane departure and automated braking can’t make up for inexperience. There is nothing … I repeat … NOTHING that can replace age and experience behind the wheel to make a safe driver. The trucking industry complains about a driver shortage and thinks this will be a whole new pool to draw from. I say malarkey. There is no shortage of qualified drivers Millions of people hold CDL licenses. The trucking industry has a pay and detention problem. We are classified as unskilled labor when in fact we are not unskilled. It takes years to acquire that skill and knowledge and teenagers aren’t up to the task. There are too many ‘ steering wheel holder’s ‘ on the road already and accident rates will prove it. If 18-year-olds are turned loose on the highways in a 40-ton machine the carnage will only get worse.”

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Anonymous: As a CVTA master instructor, I do believe 18 to 20-year-olds have the capability to learn and execute driving CDL-A, vehicles. The federal laws are allowing individuals that have not driven a car for one year in the United States and do not communicate well in English train and receive their CDL’s, and travel all over the country. So why not our young adults?

Tomas Mansfield:  “I’m fine with 18-21-year-olds with some experience (i.e.: farm, military) making early entry into interstate driving. The only issue I see is using this false idea of a “shortage” to lure them into an industry whose wages have not kept pace with the rest of the world. If there was truly a shortage, wages and benefits would reflect that. Instead, the ATA companies want fresher “blood” who will more readily and more willingly accept the poor working conditions that come with the poor paying work that the interstate transportation industry has become. The real shortage is a shortage of mature, older adults who will fall for the “great pay” and “great life” lines than many of these companies try to sell. There is good pay in the industry, just not in these “starter” companies. Give these young guys and girls with military and farm experience a chance…I’m sure the ATA will continue crying ‘shortage.'”

Roy Fitzgerald: “I do not think it is a good idea to allow people younger than 21 to operate a commercial vehicle due to the lack of experience in issues that arise in real life traffic. We already see untrained drivers of older ages that have a hard time. This will be a safety issue for the general public.”

Dana DeMatteo : “My feeling on this is Negative, with a capital N. Teenaged brains are not even fully developed. It’s a scary proposition that already teenaged drivers are on the roads operating cars! I can remember being a huge risk taker and speed demon back in the mid-70s when I was a teen myself. Now after more than 20 years as a CDL holder, I appreciate more and more every day how much maturity and focus (teens are extremely limited) and situational awareness (teens have almost none) are necessary components to being a driver, commercial or otherwise. My suggestion is to trucking companies: pay us a decent living wage for the hard work we do and there will not be any driver shortage-a situation artificially created by corporations in the interests of keeping costs down.”

Jeffrey R. Bonan: “I feel this is the time to allow the 18-21-year-old drivers [to] drive in interstate. I think we should put in place some safety measures to ensure the safety of the motoring public and the new CDL driver. A new driver is more likely to be involved in a crash situation than an older driver. I have been a CDL trainer for 5 years. In this time I have had several under 21 year-olds as students. We would have to tell the younger driver to slow down be a where of their surroundings several times while training. I think the following conditions should be considered:
1. Receive 100 hours of classroom instruction in operating a CMV.
2. Receive a minimum of 250 hours behind the wheel training (trainer must be 25 years of age or older. Must have held CDL 5 year minim) with a trainer, not a co-driver.
3. Operate in a 100 air mile of the terminal, company address, or report location.
4. Have NO FMCSA driver violations or motor vehicle moving violations.
Thes are just my thoughts of the 100 air-mile radius driver is to have a trial period to see what impact we have on the safety of the public and if we did not see an increase we could revisit it again and maybe change it to a greater distance. for this regulation.”

Alvin Hart: “This is only another attempt of the mega carriers to higher cheap labor. They have governed their speed to save money on their huge fleets. No action has been taken except restricting lanes in almost every city because they are so slow. They use unexperienced drivers they can hire for nothing at a cost to our citizen’s lives. They lie and undercut all competition. Nothing is done. Now they want young drivers that they can abuse easier. Enough is enough. Stop them now before more U.S. lives are destroyed. Any company that will disrupt U.S. commerce to save dollars is totally wrong. But you have allowed it now for over 5 years. Stop changing everyone’s lives to suit them. Stop them.”

Mike Cook: “I think it is a bad idea because drivers at those ages have not developed the ability to make good, safe judgment calls and are willing to make risky decisions, therefore, making our highways less safe. I am a driver for Walmart’s private fleet.”