In 2018, the American Trucking Association (ATA) estimated a driver shortage at 60,000 in the over-the-road truckload market. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this shortage. One contributing factor is the limitations placed on training schools. As a result of social distancing requirements during COVID-19, driver schools are graduating 30% to 40% fewer drivers.
A Proposed Solution
In September 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it is “seeking public comments on a new pilot program to allow drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce,” according to a press release.
Under the pilot program, two groups of drivers will be able to participate:
- 18- to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer
- 19- and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for one year and driven 25,000 miles
The pilot program includes provisions for study group drivers relating to:
- Driving limitations
- Training and experience requirements
- Vehicle safety technology
- Motor carrier qualification requirements
- Motor carrier application and participation requirements
Why The Pilot Program is a Good Idea
Many states currently allow young drivers to drive long distances. For example, young drivers in Texas can drive 745 miles from Houston to El Paso and drivers in Florida can drive 483 miles from Tallahassee to Miami, but they are not allowed to make shorter trips across state lines.
The average age of truck drivers in the US is 56. One of the goals of this pilot program is to attract young individuals who aren’t attending college but need a stable, well-paying job. The program will also help gather data that will be used to determine if young drivers can safely operate long-haul trucks.
If 80 or more carriers agree to participate in the pilot program, it most likely won’t launch until late 2021 or early 2022. However, there is hope that the program will help attract younger drivers in future years.