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NewsTruckingTrucking Regulation

Teamsters oppose under-21 CDL pilot proposal

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters union has joined the majority of early commenters rejecting a proposed pilot program to lower the restriction for an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL) from 21 to 18.

Roughly 75 percent of the 180 comments filed so far – just days after Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the proposal on May 14 – have come out against the initiative, mostly for safety reasons. The Teamsters agree.

“The decision by the FMCSA to propose a pilot program that would lower the commercial driver’s license restriction from 21 to 18 is of grave concern to those who use the roadways as their workplace every day,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement.

Hoffa noted that restricting a similar ongoing three-year pilot program to veterans with military driving experience, as stipulated when Congress reauthorized the last highway bill, is needed to counter the “enormous safety risks inherent with having teenagers running tractor trailers” in interstate commerce.

“Ignoring that decision and unilaterally deciding to explore a much broader pilot program represents a dismissive wave of the hand to the will of Congress,” Hoffa said.

Both the FMCSA and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) have cited a shortage of drivers – and the fact that younger drivers are already allowed to drive commercially within state boundaries – as a reason for evaluating their safety performance using an interstate pilot project.

After a bill to allow drivers under 21 to haul commercially was reintroduced in Congress in February with bipartisan support, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear commented that it “demonstrates how real a threat the driver shortage presents to our nation’s economic security over the long-term – and how serious our lawmakers are about addressing it with common-sense solutions,” Spear said.

But the Teamsters contend that the FMCSA’s proposed pilot is attempting to address a driver shortage that “mainly plagues one subset of the trucking industry,” referring to the large-carrier truckload sector, a Teamsters spokesman told FreightWaves. That sector is a significant portion of ATA’s membership.

“Instead of discussing the rampant turnover that part of industry faces, or the low pay and tough working conditions those drivers endure, we are disappointed to see the agency only focus on how they can get more drivers into these jobs with no suggestions of how to improve the quality of the work while they are there,” Hoffa said.

“Younger drivers should not be expected to tolerate substandard working conditions any more than their older counterparts. Asking them to do so while also potentially jeopardizing the safety of all road users only makes this decision more troubling.”

FMCSA’s proposal, in addition to any general comments, is asking for public comment on two specific questions:

  • What data are currently available on the safety performance (e.g., crash involvement, etc.) of 18-20-year-old drivers operating CMVs [commercial motor vehicles] in intrastate commerce?
  • Are there concerns about obtaining insurance coverage for drivers under 21 who operate CMVs in intrastate commerce, and would these challenges be greater for interstate operations?

Comments on the proposal are due July 15.

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

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.

74 Comments

  1. For once I agree ? with Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa, on this particular issue.
    The truck load carriers, is dead spend on not examining the issues pertaining to the shortage in their sector of the trucking industry. So there solution is, put a young whippersnapper behind the wheel and hope that this experiment works so they can carry on the tradition of not paying you to do work that you’re supposed to get paid for.

  2. Not old enough to smoke, or by alcohol because 18 year old people are not responsible enough. What makes people think young adults will be responsible with a 80,000 lb , or more vehicle? Quit catering to the mega carriers that can’t keep people because of work conditions.

  3. So the Teamsters and others believe this is a safety issue? Half the drivers already on the road are a safety issue. I’m starting to think a CDL is nothing more than Center Driving Lane endorsement. How can any American claim this is a safety issue? Keep in mind, these are the same young adults required to register for selective service. The same young adults issued an automatic weapon and sent to foreign lands to enforce our foreign interests. Stop slapping them in the face and treat them as the individuals they are.

  4. There is a driver’s shortage and the old drivers think they’re all that, most of them are just steering wheel holders. My husband and I own a small trucking company and have a hard time finding qualified drivers, if they’re old enough to die for this country at 18, they’re old enough to drive a truck. My husband has been driving since he was 18 and started in CA, he knows the challenges of dealing with traffic. When you hire someone yippy should be able to tell if they can handle it or not, if you can’t tell you shouldn’t be the one doing the hiring.

  5. There is no deicer shortage it’s a lie… there are qualified drivers out here they won’t hire because they can’t mold to what they want… they want yes men and women to do what they want… they dont want people that can think for them selves and do things the right way… they want robots that will do things their way and not ask question…..

  6. It may be a surprise for a intrastate driver of only 26 with 3yrs driving but I definitely believe other routes should be attempted first. These big trucking lines are throwing anyone they can in a truck. Awhile back I say a guy in my part of Idaho that I’m not ok with. He couldn’t speak, read, or write English. He was unaware what the big red button next to the yellow one did, all he knew was his trailer brakes were locked. He didn’t know how to let the air out of the bags to back up to a dock. After blocking me in for about 15min I docked his rig for him. By all means figure out how to get more drivers but get them trained better before sending them rolling.

  7. Dropping the age will not change anything, the younger drivers will see there being used to keep the pay and benefits down and the problem will still be there. I’m a retired teamster I worked with good pay and benefits and never saw drivers leaving there job except to retire. The way I see it, if the companies want to fix the problem they welcome the Teamsters in.

  8. most intrastate drivers under 21 are doing farm/family work. that’s why it was created. try getting a job with any major carrier for an in state job, and they will deny you due to insurance age limits. I got my start driving for family hauling grain and other agricltue related materials

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