Major changes are now set to hit the truck driving world, and will inevitably affect CDL driving age requirements.
In 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed changes — which are backed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of Washington’s Department of Transportation — to lower the age of truck drivers, in particular for purposes of driving across state lines.
Now, two years later, the program is set to go into effect.
What the new proposal means for truck drivers
Historically the age allowance to drive large trucks across state lines was 21 and over. But because of a current significant truck driver shortage in the US, the federal government is promoting a new policy to lower this age in order to help the economy and trucking industry.
According to statistics, the shortage of US truck drivers are in the range of 51,000 and is expected to increase to a whopping 63,000 this year.
In a July 2018 article in the New York Times, it was reported that “The lack of available drivers is rippling through the supply chain, causing a bottleneck of goods that is delaying deliveries and prompting some companies to increase prices.”
The article went on to report that the Trump administration is working towards getting non-traditional truck drivers to sign up for job placements in the truck industry, including women and minorities, since (according to the Times) the industry has been historically dominated by white men.
The effort to bring in younger truck drivers, under the age of 21, is currently a pilot program with some major push. Known as Section 5404 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the program is designed to allow drivers under 21 years old with certain military occupational specialty experience, or national guard experience, to begin driving large trucks across state lines.
The pilot program is expected to begin later in the year.
Another proposal, the Drive Safe Act, will allow all 18-21-year-olds to operate a large truck. This bill has yet to take effect but is being supported by organizations such as the American Trucking Association.
Controversy Surrounding the Plan
But of course, no proposal regarding CDL driving age range is without debate.
According to sobering statistics, drivers below the age of 20 are three times more likely to be involved in fatal vehicle accidents. In 2010 alone, 33 percent of deaths among 13 to 19-year-olds were due to motor vehicle crashes.
According to a Center for Disease Control study, in 2013 drivers between the ages of 15-19 represented only 7 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 11 percent of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.
Though there are many factors related to these statistics (such as teens having a higher rate of not wearing seatbelts while driving, as well as drunk driving, according to the CDC), organizations who are pushing for the lower age truck driving bill are adamant that CDL training programs will become more stringent, going above and beyond current requirements in order to ensure driver safety.