Bill would let states jointly study lowering the CDL age requirement for interstate truckers. Photo: Haldex

Bill would let states jointly study lowering the CDL age requirement for interstate truckers. Photo: Haldex

A Senate bill would instruct the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to conduct a pilot study of lowering the age at which Class A CDL holders can drive trucks across state lines.

The Commercial Driver Act (S.1672), introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), would allow contiguous states to enter into compacts to standardize the licensing requirements for drivers— including those under age 21-- to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

Not mentioned in the Commercial Driver Act is the concept of graduated CDL licensing, which calls for allowing 18- to 20-year olds to work as apprentice drivers to gain on-the-road experience leading to becoming fully licensed at age 21. Presumably, states that would take part in any standardization pilots enabled by the legislation might consider studying the apprenticeship model.

The American Trucking Associations favors that approach to help draw in younger recruits for driving jobs. According to Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy, age-graduated licenses are “not a new concept for passenger car drivers” and that it’s “important to conduct research on this to attract people to this industry.”

Per the text of Sen. Fischer’s bill, “…participating States shall provide for minimum licensure standards acceptable for interstate travel under this section, which may include, for drivers under the 21 years of age— (1) age restrictions; (2) distance from origin (measured in air miles); (3) reporting requirements; or (4) additional hours of service restrictions.”

The language of S.1672 also states that the act would not change “the authority to operate in Interstate Commerce for drivers over the age of 21, including by setting the minimum age requirement to receive a Class A commercial driver’s license at 18 years of age.”

ATA said it supports the Commercial Driver Act because it helps address the growing shortage of commercial truck drivers. ATA estimates that while trucking is currently short up to 40,000, drivers, due to retirements and individuals leaving the industry, truck operations will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers a year over the next decade to keep pace with freight demand.

"As our population grows and our freight demands increase, we are going to need more drivers,” said Bill graves, ATA president & CEO. “The Commercial Driver Act helps solve two problems by expanding the pool of eligible drivers and creating employment opportunities for younger Americans."

Making a common-sense argument in favor of lowering the interstate driving age, Graves also remarked that, “It is illogical that a 20-year-old can drive the 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego, but not the eight miles from Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas – or simply cross the street in Texarkana. Even more illogical is that a 20-year-old may not drive a truck in any state if the cargo in it originated outside the state or will eventually leave the state by some other means."

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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