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Plan for Teenagers to Drive Commercial Trucks

Tuesday, November 06, 2018By Nina Shapirshteyn

A truck driver shortage in America shows no signs of improving according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). The ATA projects a shortage in the trucking industry of approximately 63,000 drivers this year. Significant deficiencies are already causing late deliveries and higher prices for many consumers. Trucking companies have tried to increase their employee numbers by offering higher salaries and various signing incentives, but their efforts appear to have had limited success. Many drivers acknowledge that truck driving is a difficult job that keeps drivers away from their homes and families for most of the year. The lifestyle has been a challenge in attracting new employees.

Pilot Program Geared to Individuals with Military Experience

Now the federal government has announced a pilot program to try to alleviate the trucking shortage, but some experts have mixed opinions about the plan. The program, which will begin later this year under the direction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, authorizes 18-20-year-old drivers with some military occupational training to drive commercial trucks on interstate routes. The goal of the initiative is to encourage members of the military or national guard to choose truck driving when seeking employment.

The Federal Government’s Plans to Lower the Commercial Driving Age

The ultimate objective is to reduce the driving age across the country to open up the industry to younger workers. The federal government currently mandates that commercial truck drivers be a minimum of 21 years of age to operate a large truck across state lines. The pilot program would lower the driving age for private trucking company employees. A bill was introduced in the House this year known as the DRIVE-Safe Act to lower the commercial truck driving age to 18 years old. The legislation has support from many large trucking companies that support a change in the minimum driving age as a possible solution to the trucker shortage. While commercial driver’s licenses are available in most states to 18 years old, they are restricted to in-state driving.

Opposition to a Change in Age Requirements

The proposed legislation has been met with some criticism. Safety advocates maintain that companies are looking for a cheap labor source and ignoring the apparent safety hazards implicit in this plan. Truck driving is already a dangerous job for an adult. Experts believe that allowing teen drivers to drive large trucks is a significant risk to the safety of all those on the road. Teen vehicle drivers are already known to have a higher risk of being in an accident- 16 to 19 years old drivers are three times more likely to crash in a fatal accident than drivers over 20 years old. The DRIVE-Safe Act is attempting to alleviate these concerns by requiring extra practice time before a young driver can drive across state liens alone.

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