Hoping to ease a nationwide driver shortage, the FMCSA has launched a pilot program to allow 18- to 20-year-old veterans to drive big trucks.
They would need the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license to qualify, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Monday. Also required would be sponsorship by a participating trucking company.
Critics of the program include the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those groups argue that teenagers lack the experience to drive Class 8 trucks. They also say that teens have poor driving records.
For example, said Norita Taylor of OOIDA, “Driving long-haul, commercial trucks on U.S. highways for a living is very different from the controlled environment of the military, which includes time spent training in other areas.”
The 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act included the pilot program. The act requires a comparison of young vets’ safety records with those of a control group of drivers.
The trucking industry needs more drivers as older truckers retire. For example, the American Trucking Associations estimates the shortfall exceeds 50,000 drivers.
“ATA is pleased to see FMCSA moving forward on this effort,” spokesman Sean McNally said. The military pilot and a broader program open to all 18- to 20-year-olds will safely bring young drivers into trucking, he said.
Teen truckers with driver’s licenses can operate only within a single state. But Congress might change that. A proposal introduced in February would allow them to drive cross-country after hundreds of hours of training.
“With the nation’s economy reaching new heights, the trucking industry continues to have job openings” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said.