Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed a bill that will allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate a commercial vehicle for the purpose of interstate commerce in the state if and when they are permitted to do so by federal law.
The impetus to allow younger drivers on the road typically revolves around filling seats during the driver shortage and getting more young people into the aging industry before they are wooed to a different profession.
Federal law currently requires professional truck drivers to be at least 21 years old to haul goods across state lines, no matter which states they are driving through. The DRIVE-Safe Act could change that for some young people.
The DRIVE-Safe Act is currently being considered in both the House and the Senate. If approved, the DRIVE-Safe Act would allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 with CDLs to operate in interstate commerce under some restrictions. It would require drivers to complete a two-part apprenticeship. Employers would decide if drivers pass each portion of the apprenticeship based on performance in required skill sets.
Part one: 120-hour probationary period, with at least 80 driving hours. Performance benchmarks include:
- Interstate, city, rural, two-way and evening driving
- Safety awareness
- Speed and space management
- Lane control
- Mirror scanning
- Logging and hours-of service compliance
Part two: 280-hour probationary period, with at least 160 hours of driving time. Performance benchmarks include:
- Backing and maneuvering
- Weighing loads and sliding tandems
- Trip planning
Under the DRIVE-Safe Act, young drivers will also be subject to a certain set of restrictions on the vehicles they can operate and the commodities they can haul.
Additional restrictions include:
- Driver must be accompanied by an “experienced driver” during both probationary periods
- No hazmat
- Automatic and automatic manual transmissions
- Active braking system
- Forward-facing camera
- Speed governed at 65 mph or less
The FAST Act, which passed in 2015, requires the Department of Transportation to conduct pilot programs on feasibility, benefits and safety impacts of allowing certain drivers under 21 to operate in interstate commerce. Those drivers, however, must meet very specific criteria, and complete date for the pilot programs is projected to be about five years out.
Drivers participating in that pilot program must be between the ages of 18 and 20, a member or former member of the armed forces and be qualified in a military occupational specialty to operate a CMV or similar vehicle. The program is aiming for 200 participants.
If and when the federal government reaches a conclusion that allows drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to take to the open highway, Colorado will be ready to get them on the road quickly.