The FMCSA has been mulling a rule change that would allow truck drivers ages 18-20 to haul loads across state lines. The agency said in 2019 it was thinking about implementing a pilot program on the subject and asked for stakeholders' input.
In September, the agency floated the idea again and asked for more public comments. During the pilot, 18- to 20-year-old drivers with a CDL would operate interstate while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period, followed by a 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer. A driver who is 19 or 20, who has operated commercial vehicles in state commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles, could also be part of the pilot program.
The FMCSA's proposed pilot program is polarizing, with commenters either very supportive or very opposed. Here's a look at some of those comments. (Commenters have the option of attaching a name or being anonymous. Some comments have been edited slightly for grammar and/or length.)
I'm an under-21 driver and I support this pilot
"Some of us 18-20-year-olds can very well drive a tractor trailer and be safe while doing it."
Mason Page: "I am an under-21 CDL-A holder in Oklahoma. I went to CDL school at a local tech center, and EARNED my CDL — the same way many earned theirs, whether it is through a school or on a farm road. I am a third-generation truck driver, and a hard-worker. After thoroughly reading and reviewing this proposition for a pilot program, I think it is a good idea. It allows for those under 21 to go over the road, but in a minimized and structured learning atmosphere so that they aren't just thrown out there into the wind."
Kawaii Rajasekara: "I think it’s cool because it gives me a chance to go drive team with my dad 'till we feel I’m ready to go alone."
Erik Shoell: "I support this program for under-21-year-old drivers. I’m currently 20, got my CDL at 18 [and have] been driving semis [ever] since in Utah, doing intrastate. Some of us 18-20-year-olds can very well drive a tractor trailer and be safe while doing it. Do I think some don’t need to be behind the wheel? Absolutely. But I have to wanted to go over-the-road since I was almost 15."
Lowering the age requirement would attract more drivers to the industry
"It would increase the chances that people choose to make transportation a career, which I figure will improve the quality of the industry."
Doug Long: "Facing a driver shortfall and a rising population of 18-21-year-olds looking for jobs beyond hospitality, I support the proposed pilot program to evaluate their competency behind the wheel. ... The training hurdles should be higher for this age group, due to less experience, but they should be treated like adults and given the opportunity to prove themselves. You can't expect the younger generation to "step up" if you don't give them that opportunity."
Kenneth Osborne: "I agree with allowing 18-20-year-olds to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. It would increase the chances that people choose to make transportation a career, which I figure will improve the quality of the industry."
David Westenfelder: "There is a terrible driver shortage in this industry. ... By starting at a younger age, individuals can get a leg up on a what could be a long-term, good-paying career. ... With the ever-changing technologies that we as an industry are implementing ... these younger drivers are better equipped to keep up and be the forefront of the changes. This will help the industry and the young people that get involved."
I support this pilot because age is not a driver's most important quality
"It is antiquated and arbitrary to place limits on the type of motor carrier service one can perform simply because of their age."
Anonymous Anonymous: "Every truck driver that you see on that road has been a rookie before. ... What does an individual's age have to do with anything? If an 18- 20[-year-old] can go to school with older drivers, then why can't they be allowed to drive alongside those same drivers?"
Johnny Dyer: "I'm a 67 year old commercial hazmat driver. Certainly 18-year-olds should have every opportunity that any other person enjoys. ... We'll send you to a foreign land to defend our country, subject you to the hardship of being a soldier, but you can't drive a semi? Come on, let's employ some common sense and fairness to how we treat our young people. If they have the skills to get a CDL, then treat them like everyone else."
Brian Riker: "As a safety specialist, professional driver and driver instructor with a career spanning nearly 30 years and 2.7 million miles, I fully support this pilot program to allow for collection of as much data as possible by as wide of a group of subjects as possible. ... It is antiquated and arbitrary to place limits on the type of motor carrier service one can perform simply because of their age. If a driver is qualified to obtain a CDL, then they should be qualified to operate in either interstate or intrastate commerce, provided they meet the other medical and regulatory qualifications. The geography or distance traveled, especially considering the size of states like Pennsylvania, New York, Texas and California, has little to no bearing on one's ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. This is particularly true for vocational operators and those domiciled on or near multi-state borders."
Jayandre Simmons: "I personally think allowing 18-20-year-olds to drive interstate is a wonderful idea. Every 18 year old is not the same. I agree that he/she should be on a probationary period. Everyone gets in wrecks; it doesn’t matter how old you are."
I am opposed because young drivers lack the mental capacity
"These are huge machines that require a level of respect that only someone with a little more life experience and brain development can handle."
Wesley Cory: "I STRONGLY disagree with FMCSA’s proposal to allow 18-20-year-olds to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines. ... Granted, 18-20-year-olds who grew up working on farms or in trucking families would most likely do fine, as they were raised with a good work ethic and given [responsibilities] at a young age. Other 18-20-year-olds who did not grow up in that environment, I believe, don’t have the maturity to deal with the day to day stresses and responsibilities that today’s driver’s have to deal with on a daily basis."
Brittany Humphrey: "This is not something I support, and quite frankly [it] scares me to death. Someone of this age range medically speaking lacks the mental capacity to drive safe and keep others safe on the roads. Additionally I do not believe that they can also deal with the stresses that this industry has, let alone the responsibility it takes to get a load to a given destination on time and undamaged while also remaining safe. These are huge machines that require a level of respect that only someone with a little more life experience and brain development can handle."
Shane Paul: "I started trucking when I was in my 30s. I feel I was barely mature and experienced enough to handle the responsibility of commercial operation. I don't think people in their teens have the maturity or life experience to operate safely. I am against lowering the eligibility age. If anything if should be raised to 25."
I am opposed because of the safety risks
"I routinely train kids that are 21-25. They barely have the mental stamina and maturity to do this job safely. "
Richard Edwards: "I've been driving trucks for 20+ years. Admittedly, I started late in life. But to even consider someone with a little more that 2 years of driving a 65-foot-long, 80,000-pound vehicle down any road state to state is simply OUTRAGEOUS! They lack the experience and maturity to make GOOD, SOUND DECISIONS!"
Ryan Heaberlin: "This is not a good idea. I am a mentor at a large trucking company. I routinely train kids that are 21-25. They barely have the mental stamina and maturity to do this job safely. The only way I’d be ok with this is if they were [with] a veteran or something. At least that way they’ve been mentally tested and matured."
Michelle Robinson: "Looking at how many teenagers get into wrecks driving a standard automobile, giving a 19-year-old child 80,000 pounds of steel is just dangerous. Also, these kids do not have enough driving experience."