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Thoughts on FMCSA’s ‘Young Driver’ Proposal from Around the Industry

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sure riled some feathers when it announced a proposal to expand its current three-year pilot program that allows 18-20-year-old drivers with a military CDL to drive interstate. The expansion would allow non-military drivers in the same age group the opportunity to commercially drive interstate.

The reaction to this proposal has stirred up a lot of mixed-feelings. It’s a complex issue, and the FMCSA opened a public forum for people to voice their opinions on the subject – the forum will be live until July 15, and it has gained a lot of traction already. The FMCSA will take into consideration public responses before making a decision on whether or not to move forward with implementation of the proposal.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) may be the proposals biggest critic. The organization believes that allowing young drivers to drive interstate compromises the safety of roadways. They also argue that the result of allowing 18-20-year-old drivers just brings more drivers into the industry, and that it does nothing in terms of solving the high turnover rate, or the low pay and tough working conditions drivers are faced with.

Teamsters, a large union with members working in numerous industries, including commercial transportation, also took OOIDA’s stance on the proposal. They believe that adding young drivers to the driver pool does nothing to improve working conditions and wages, and that young drivers will be expected to tolerate the current state of the industry.

On the flip-side, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) believes this proposal is a necessary step in the right direction to help solve the driver shortage. And, that by allowing younger drivers the opportunity to drive interstate after high school, young drivers will become more intrigued to join and stay in the industry, rather than seek other opportunities.

If you check out the FMCSA public forum, you’ll notice majority of the comments that have been left disapprove of the proposal. Many believe that young drivers aren’t mature enough, nor do they have enough driving experience to cross interstate lines. Some even point to the fact that there really isn’t a driver shortage in the industry, and that the industry needs to do a better job of creating a better work environment to keep older drivers in the industry. That is an interesting point, considering the Bureau of Labor Statistics published its report stating that there isn’t a driver shortage just prior to FMCSA’s announcement of its proposal. To see what people are saying about the proposal, check out this link.

While some in the industry are hearing both sides of the argument, for the most part, opinions on the proposal are quite polarized.

When the public forum closes, the FMCSA will have a big decision to make on whether or not they will allow non-military, 18-20-year-old drivers access to drive interstate. It’s clear that something needs to be done to entice new drivers to the industry as well as improve working conditions and pay to improve retention rates without sacrificing the public’s safety. This proposal ultimately may not be the solution, but at least an attempt is being made to work on some of the issues the industry is facing.