If you are the parent of a teen, it might be hair-raising to think about them getting behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer and hauling heavy cargo across state lines. However, this is the goal of a proposed pilot program by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), as well as a growing bipartisan group of legislators. This pending legislation, which would lower the age of long-haul truck drivers, is meant to address the truck driver shortage in the United States. However, it also has safety advocates raising the alert.
The CDC reports that motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of death for teens in the United States. Every day, six teenagers aged 16 to 19 die from injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes, and are three times more likely than drivers 20 years or older to be involved in a fatal crash. Yet, the federal government is considering opening the long-haul trucking industry to drivers as young as the age of eighteen.
Currently, truck drivers under age 21 may only drive within state lines – for example, anywhere in Maryland, but they can’t cross into Virginia – while operating a commercial vehicle. However, a proposed program by the FMCSA wants to assess the risks and benefits of allowing 18-year-old truckers to cross state lines.
How would the program work?
The proposed pilot program, announced in September 2020, is seeking to recruit 18- to 20-year-olds who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), as well as 20-year-olds with CDLs and one year of intrastate trucking experience.
In a press release, the FMCSA said, “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. 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.”
This program is designed to work in tandem with Congress’ DRIVE-Safe Act, which also proposes lowering the legal age for intrastate commercial truck drivers to eighteen. The driving force behind dropping the driving age for intrastate CDLs is the national truck driver shortage, as well as trucking companies’ desire to recruit younger drivers and lower turnover rates. As of this publishing, DRIVE-Safe has yet to be passed.
Are younger truck drivers more dangerous?
The FMCSA’s study hopes to gather information on whether truck drivers aged 18 to 20 are at higher risk of causing accidents. However, opponents of the legislation have already gathered their own research about young commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers in a public letter, some of which includes:
- CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes
- CMV drivers between the ages of 19-20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes
- Younger drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks
- Development of portions of the brain vital to decision-making, specifically the pre-frontal cortex, may not be fully reached until one’s mid-20s
If you were injured in a truck crash, talk to an experienced attorney at Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. today. Our truck accident injury attorneys are second to none, and we know how to take on negligent trucking companies. To schedule a free consultation about your case, give our Maryland offices a call today at 410-730-7737 or use our contact form.