FMCSA Proposes New Under-21 Commercial Driver Pilot Program

In a recent press release, FMCSA announced a new pilot program designed to open up commercial driving permits to 18, 19, and 20-year-old drivers. Today, fully licensed commercial drivers must be 21 years old to haul freight across state lines. 49 states allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to drive within the state borders.

Over the last few years – and especially the last few months – the trucking and logistics industry has been in the midst of a crippling driver shortage. With available, qualified drivers in short supply, lowering the minimum CDL driving age to 18 (or at least testing this through FMCSA’s proposed pilot program) can help address the driver shortage in a sustainable way with younger new entrants who otherwise don’t have the opportunity to enter the industry.

The press release outlined the specifics of this new pilot program, including:

  • The program will be designed to determine the safety, feasibility, and potential economic benefits of lowering the CDL interstate driver minimum age.
  • The program would be open to 18 to 20-year-old CDL drivers who would be asked to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce while being subjected to a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period through an apprenticeship with an established employer.
  • An additional group would include 19 and 20-year old drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for at least one year and 25,000 miles.
  • Neither group of drivers would be hauling passengers, hazardous materials, or special configuration materials.

In a recent DriverReach Chat, CVTA President and CEO Don Lefeve discussed his thoughts on the matter, naming the FMCSA pilot program as a bright spot in the future of the industry. With so much changing in the trucking and logistics space – from technology to safety regulations to the aging driver population – now is shaping up to be the perfect time to make this kind of legislative change.

If you have thoughts or feedback on this new pilot program, let your voice be heard! FMCSA is actively looking for input from carriers, current drivers, drivers who are interested in joining the program, and members of the community. Comment directly in the FMCSA’s federal register to offer your opinion on the program or sign up to be a part of the pilot.

Watch the DriverReach Chats Episode Featuring Don Lefeve

Stay up to date on CDL trucking trends! Be sure to check out the DriverReach blog for other relevant articles and head over to our webinars page for an up-to-date list of upcoming events and on-demand recordings.

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