ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is allowing drivers age 18 to 20 years old to drive semi-trucks across state lines under a pilot program the Transportation Department is advancing, reports Bloomberg Law.
The pilot apprenticeship program allows younger truckers to drive across state lines while supervised by an experienced driver for two probationary periods, totaling no less than 240 driving hours. After the hours are complete, the driver can operate alone. Monthly crash, inspection, safety and exposure data will be reported by motor carriers participating in the program.
The move to allow teenagers to travel interstates in their big rigs is an effort by the White House to help alleviate supply chain woes. The American Trucking Associations estimates that the industry is short 80,000 drivers.
The apprenticeship program is allowed under the recently passed infrastructure law, which included a Trucking Action Plan. The plan aims to improve trucker retention and recruit more truck drivers and in return, help the national supply chain for the long-term.
“NACS applauds FMSCA’s announcement in moving forward with the pilot program to allow qualified and trained truck drivers ages 18-20 to participate in interstate commerce,” said Paige Anderson, NACS director government relations. “We supported this proposal in the bipartisan infrastructure bill and are pleased that we are one step closer to helping address the truck driver shortage problem.”
Prior to the release of the Trucking Action Plan, more than 80 bipartisan House members sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging the U.S. DOT to allow truck drivers younger than age 21 to cross state lines with their cargo. Although most states allow 18 year-olds to obtain a commercial driver’s license, truck drivers must be at least 21 years old to drive large trucks in interstate commerce.
NACS supports the DRIVE Safe Act, which would allow for drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 with a commercial driver’s license to operate in interstate commerce and drive across state lines. During Senate consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, NACS signed a joint industry letter asking the Senate to include language to address this issue.
In addition, NACS continues to work with a broad coalition working on supply chain issues, especially regarding truck driver shortages. These key stakeholders, including NACS, sent a joint industry letter in October to the White House outlining the need for action in key areas of the supply chain challenge, including movement on allowing 18-21-year-old truck drivers to cross state lines.
NACS Magazine shared how carriers are casting a wider net for applicants to fill truck driving jobs in “Women on the Road” in the October 2021 issue.