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Teamsters oppose under-21 CDL pilot proposal

Constitutional changes could be coming to Teamsters. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

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.


  1. Walter McCauley

    I completely agree with the Teamsters view of the problem that needs to be dealt with is WHY there’s a shortage of drivers. The low pay, the lack of detention pay, and no oversight on the brokers are the reasons so many of us don’t drive anymore. We are too vital to everyday life to be treated the way we are treated so why continue to drive? Hiring kids in the hopes that they are so happy to make a bigger check than working at McDonald’s that they won’t care about the poor conditions inflicted upon us industry wide…. is not the solution. Its going to be a disaster when these kids are set free on the interstate highways.

  2. Mr.D

    If you can go to war for your country at 18; therefore; why shouldn’t you be allowed to be responsible enough to do any other adult activity etc.

  3. Bobo

    Maybe its time for the teamsters to hand out cards to the employees of the mega carriers. It may open some of the eyes of presidents and board members . What are they gonna do …close ? There is no driver shortage, theres a money shortage. We’re here to make money!! As far as detention pay ,we shouldn’t have to agree to give an hour or two before we start getting paid 12 or 15 an hour. Your on the clock,detention should start immediately. I dont care if thats how its always been . FIGURE IT OUT!! Would you want to be 1000 miles from home and not getting paid??

  4. William C Frederick

    I agree as well but I feel there needs to be an apprenticeship type training for all drivers coming into the biz electricians and the other trades have one my driving school in little rock was 20 week for day students and 30 weeks for night I advocate a year training year with trainer then evaluated every 90 days for a year

Comments are closed.

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.