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Recently it has emerged that federal regulators are considering to lower the minimum age requirement for semi-truck drivers, so as to address the stringent national shortage. So in this post, we will reflect upon the implications of such possible regulation change and weather it will indeed help solve the truckers’ deficit?
January this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) detailed the pilot program allowing 18-to-20-year-old truckers to drive rigs outside their home states. Currently, prospective truckers training for a commercial driver’s license must be at least 21 years old in order to cross the state lines. In an effort to address the bottlenecks in obtaining a CDL, as required by the Congress, the new test apprenticeship program was announced. It follows up on the infrastructure bill signed into law on November 15th, requiring the FMCSA to develop and start the program within 60 days of adoption. Under this apprenticeship program, young drivers would be allowed to cross state borders during 120 and 280-hour probationary periods, so long as they are accompanied by experienced truck drivers in the passenger seat. Trucks employed in the program would have an electronic breaking crash mitigation system, as well as a forward-facing video camera, and have their maximum speed capped to 65 miles per hour. Following probation, young truckers would be allowed to drive on their own, and companies would be required to monitor their performance until they reach the age of 21.
The American Trucking Associations support the measure, viewing it as a sustained effort to address the truck drivers’ shortage. It estimates that the United States is short of over 80,000 truck drivers, as the demand for freight reached a historic heights in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated supply chain disruptions. Though it is debated by safety advocates, which argue in turn, it would be ill-advised to allow teenage drivers to be in charge of 80,000 pounds rigs that could potentially cause catastrophic damage in the event of an accident with passenger vehicles. The FMCSA will reach out to carriers with excellent safety records offering them the chance to take part in the program. It will run for up to 3 years, after which time the carrier agency will compile a report for the Congress detailing the safety record and performance of the teen truck drivers during the program and make a recommendation on weather young truck drivers are as safe as those 21 or older. The program is part of a wide set of measures announced by the Biden administration in order to deal with the truckers’ shortage and improve the working conditions for them. With a rigorous safety training program requiring an additional 400 hours of advanced safety training and evaluating young truckers against specific performance benchmarks, it is intended to enable the industry to address the stringent and growing freight transportation demands. Its critics warned it could increase the possibility of mass casualty crashes, alleging the transportation industry has wanted younger drivers for years and took the opportunity of pushing it into the infrastructure bill by employing the supply chain issues as a pretext.
At AGM Trucking, we attest to the difficulties faced by the logistics companies throughout our nation. The truckers shortage is a real and pressing issue, which presents bottlenecks to trucking companies across America. That, in turn, spills over negatively for the entire US economy, something we have extensively covered in our previous blog posts. Naturally, putting younger drivers behind the wheels of trucks is risky, but not more so than it is for any other rookie trucker unless, of course, they’ve been subjected to the requisite training and licensing benchmarks. We are confident that there is plenty of talent amongst 18-year-olds, and if they can successfully operate, say US military equipment or other heavy equipment for the record, there is little reason to doubt their capacity to operate loaded trucks. That’s why we subscribe to the objectives pursued by the program and hope it will be helpful in addressing the nationwide truckers’ shortage.