FMCSA rules against young driver pilot program

WAHINGTON, D.C. (June 20, 2003) — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied a request by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) to conduct a pilot program that would enable drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

TCA had proposed a program that would screen candidate drivers, train them extensively at approved truck-driving schools, and provide an apprenticeship with an approved motor carrier until age 21. The goal was to explore a performance-based alternative to the blanket provision that all truck drivers operating in interstate commerce must be at least 21. Furthermore, the program was seen as one solution to the shortage of drivers in the industry and would have allowed industry to appeal more readily to high school students as they select a career.

The most common objection during the comment period was that younger drivers don’t have the level of maturity or the driving experience necessary to operate a commercial vehicle. The FMCSA noted that little data was offered to support either opposing or favorable comments — and much of it was conflicting.

While the FMCSA noted that it doesn’t believe that all drivers between 18 and 21 should be viewed as a safety risk, it added, “there is little information currently available to support the contention that young drivers selected through a rigorous screening process, and groomed through an intensive training and mentoring program, would have safety performance records comparable to CMV drivers 21 years of age or older.” Therefore, it would be inappropriate to pursue a pilot program until there is additional information and data on which to base a preliminary determination about the potential safety impacts, the FMCSA ruled.

Comments supported by data came from a variety of sources, including insurance associations, safety organizations, trucking associations, trucking companies, truck driving schools, and state agencies. Most of the insurance industry organizations that responded to the notice were opposed to the pilot. Opposition in this group centered upon studies indicating that drivers under age 25 have a markedly higher crash risk than older drivers, and upon the contention that “driver training” has been shown to have little effect in reducing the crash risk.

Most of the national trade or trucking associations that commented were in favor of a pilot program. The American Trucking Associations noted that the pilot program provided preparation and training that far exceeded what beginning drivers receive today. While they advised caution, proponents stated that “the high crash rates of younger (CMV) drivers can be overcome by effective training, real-world driving experience, and mentoring.” Furthermore, the program’s backers emphasized the fact that 48 states currently allow drivers under the age of 21 to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce, and that state accident history of CMV operators under age 21 was no worse than that of older operators.

The proposal and comments can be accessed on the Internet at Search for docket number FMCSA-2000-8410.


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