With the possible driver shortage standing at around 50,000, shouldn’t we allow 18 to 21-year-old drivers to become over-the-road (OTR) truckers? The FMCSA is conducting a study to exempt drivers with military experience from the age requirement.
You could drive 600 miles north in CA on I-5 from Los Angeles without crossing a State line or border, but if you’re below 21 years of age, you cannot drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, NV, for interstate commerce because Federal law prohibits it even though that distance is only about 270 driving miles.
One of the primary reasons many young people show no interest in becoming truckers is that OTR truckers spend a great deal of time away from home, friends, and family. The average age of truckers is 59, and with a shortage of 50,000 truckers already, and transportation orders rising significantly in 2017 and 18, it is time to find a resolution to the problem. Could lowering the age for OTR truckers be a partial resolution?
The FMCSA Study & ICR to Exempt Military Drivers with Experience
In July 2018, the FMCSA proposed a pilot program to look at the feasibility of exempting drivers with military experience from that prohibition. Let’s take a look at some of the results of the ICR to conduct a study.
The pilot program would last for three years. Passenger carriers, combination vehicles, and hazardous cargo (HazMat) will not get used in the pilot program. The FMCSA anticipates 600 driver participants in the program.
Seventeen responded positively with an additional three agencies supporting the program with exclusions. Those they would exclude from the study were:
- Drivers not experienced with the size requirement vehicles that would likely be used as CMVs by OTR truckers.
- Those who cannot pass a training program.
- Those who have had suspensions, disqualifications, and revocations and pilot program participants should not carry passengers, HazMat, or use combination vehicles.
- Those with out-of-service (OOS) orders.
- Drivers who age out of the program.
Other considerations were:
- Consider balancing the number of participants within a carrier group.
- Consider a larger sample to let more carriers participate.
- Consider using some older participants to have larger groups.
- Get an independent review of the findings.
- Consider using CSA scores & SMS percentiles to determine carrier eligibility.
- Use other statistics in the study, such as what got transported, distance driven, pre and post CDL training received by the drivers and other data.
The following is a response by the FMCSA to these exclusions:
- The drivers will most likely receive a CDL for the type vehicle they had the most experience with in the military.
- Since most military-trained drivers receive more classroom and behind-the-wheel hours than their civilian counterparts, the FMCSA believes further training is not required.
- The FMCSA feels the pilot group should have the same requirements as other OTR truckers. Likewise, transporting passengers, HazMat, or driving combination vehicles will not be part of the study group as already outlined in the FAST Act.
- Drivers who receive an OOS order or any other disqualification will get removed from the group.
- Drivers who reach age 21 will get removed from the study group.
- No cap will get placed on the number of participants or carriers.
- The point of the study is the age group, so the FMCSA will keep it as is for a better comparison.
- At least three independent groups will study the findings of the program.
- The FMCSA will use CSA scores & SMS percentiles fairly to determine carrier eligibility to protect public safety as much as possible.
- The FMCSA will include a request for additional data, but it will not exclude carriers who do not provide the additional data.
Additionally, 14 agencies said they did not support the program. Most worried about the age, experience, and majority of the pilot group. The FMCSA reminded them that participants in the control group are prior military with more classroom and behind-the-wheel experience than most school-trained novice drivers, and bound by the same state and federal driving regulations.
A Personal Observation
One of the major fallacies with this study is that most honorably discharged military have already surpassed their 21st birthday. When you consider that most recruits enter the military at age 18 and enlist for three years, that would make them 21 already at discharge. You might find six hundred 21 to 26-year-old drivers to participate in the study, but how much will the exemption increase the number of drivers below 21 if the exception gets passed?
The trucking industry is having a difficult time recruiting and keeping young drivers. The prohibition of age 18-20-year-old drivers makes the situation worse. Intrastate drivers make far less than their OTR trucker peers, and when they enter the age where they are eligible to become OTR truckers they cannot compete with peers who may only be a few years older and have the same number of years driving but more experience with OTR trucking.
CA, because of its immense size, has 18 to 20-year-old drivers who transport cargo much further than drivers in other states, yet CA has the 14th lowest deaths per hundred vehicles in the 50 states. And, CA has the most residents, the most congested highways, and has 35 percent fewer fatalities involving large trucks than any other state, considering miles driven.
OTR Truckers Should Consult a CDL Ticket Attorney, Regardless of Age
Los Angeles County drivers who have received a traffic ticket in Chatsworth, Irvine, Long Beach, Glendale, Inglewood and other LA traffic courts should call Bigger & Harman for a free phone consult about your ticket, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
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The 2018 CA Commercial Driver Handbook .pdf
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website
Trucks.com article, Time to Let 18- to 21-Year-Old Truckers Cross State Lines
The FMCSA Summary of Public Comments Received, ICR for the Proposed Pilot Program for 18-21-Year-Old Drivers with Military Experience