Driver issuesNewsTrucking Regulation

FMCSA proposes under-21 driver pilot program

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants public comment on a pilot program allowing drivers ages 18-20 to haul interstate commercial freight.

Most states and the District of Columbia already allow 18- to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license holders to operate trucks within the state.

“This action will allow the Agency to carefully examine the safety, feasibility and possible economic benefits of allowing 18- to 20-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck in announcing the proposed pilot project Friday. “Safety is always FMCSA’s top priority, so we encourage drivers, motor carriers and interested citizens to review this proposed new pilot program and share their thoughts and opinions.”

The proposed program allows drivers falling within one of two categories to participate: 

  • Eighteen- to 20-year-old CDL holders who operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) 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, or
  • Nineteen- and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles.

Participating drivers would not be allowed to operate vehicles hauling passengers or hazardous materials or special configuration vehicles, according to the proposal. The test program would last up to three years.

Details of the proposed program can be found here.


  1. Have you seen how newer drivers behave on the road no matter their ages? Are any of the people proposing these changes actually out in the thick of the industry? I am an older new driver and I listen and respect those who will share their knowledge and truly some things have to be experienced ;however, you are mistaken if you look at money and logistics alone. Trucking definitely isn’t what it used to be- I call out to dead air for radio checks all the time. I pass drivers “jamming” out with little attention being paid to the road, much less drivers. No CB available to communicate and weaving all over the road. It’s reprehensible that you would think 18-20 year old “need” the opportunity. They can wait and gain the experience and maturity as people. What’s wrong with waiting? The “me” generation has also turned into the “now” generation. I wouldn’t support a measure like this unless there was a legitimate training process and not a money making scam offered by trucking companies.

  2. You sir ate an idiot…it is ok for our young adults to fight and die for our country put there lives and give the ultimate sacrifice allow them to kill hold and use wepons of war ..but we wont let them drive a truck…

    1. I don’t know about this comparison. The military controls the situation whereas out on the road all you really have are the police….and quite frankly there is no control.

  3. APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM is what is required under 21. Before SELECTIVE DEREGULATION there was no “Driver SHORTAGE”.

    Once Upon A Time, before SELECTIVE DEREGULATION, Truck Drivers were RESPECTED, Well Paid, Courteous & SAFE.

    Watch how Trucking once was, and SHOULD BE FOR YOUR (and EVERYONE ELSE’S) SAFETY:

    Pacific Intermountain Express (PIE).
    Watch “Wheels of Progress” on YouTube (~23 mins):


    In the 1980s powerful Manufacturing, Shipping & Receiving LOBBYISTS got together to DEREGULATE THEMSELVES while simultaneously OVERREGULATING TRUCK DRIVERS.

    Today Shippers, Receivers & Load Brokers benefit from total DEREGULATION & Impunity, even when it is their fault.

    Truck Drivers, conversely, are OVERREGULATED, Fined & held ACCOUNTABLE for EVERYONE else’s mistakes & wrongdoings, even when it is not their fault!?

    Trucking today is much like putting a marathon runner in ankle shackles & handcuffs, then ordering them to run a marathon. Would this be fair & ethical? Somehow in Trucking such “rules & regulations” have become ok and the “norm”. One of the biggest reasons for an alleged “DRIVER SHORTAGE”, Unfairness! It’s always the Driver’s fault, even when it isn’t.

    Maybe it is time to stop DENIAL, take the Bull by the horns, and seriously how trucking was SUCCESSFULLY & SAFELY Run in the Golden Years, vs what it has become. It is not Rocket Science. Nor a secret. EVERYONE KNOWS what the problems, challenges & SOLUTIONS are.

  4. If the FMCSA changes the law allowing 18 – 20 year olds to haul interstate commercial freight, they should also REQUIRE their trailers to display a large yellow banner across the back of the trailer, as a warning to all other drivers.

  5. My personal opinion is different people have different levels of maturity. I think if an individual is trained and vetted through a responsible individual, They should be allowed in interstate commerce.I know a very good number of responsible young people that want to start in the life of trucking and some that need to mature some more. just my opinion.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.