The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is launching a pilot program that will allow teenage truck drivers to cross state lines. While 49 states and Washington, D.C., allow anybody over the age of 18 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate 18-wheelers, federal law prohibits drivers under the age of 21 from crossing state lines.
The trucking industry has been dealing with a shortage of truck drivers amid the coronavirus pandemic as many drivers found themselves out of work due to the nationwide lockdowns. As a result, many truck drivers either retired or found new jobs in other industries. In addition, driving schools were closed, leaving the industry about 80,000 drivers short.
To help alleviate the shortage, Congress required the FMCSA to move forward with the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program when it passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill last November.
Under the new program, drivers under the age of 21 who have a valid commercial driver’s license and a clean driving record will be allowed to drive their big rigs across state lines. Those drivers will be under the direct supervision of an experience driver, and their trucks must be equipped with an automatic emergency braking system, forward-facing video cameras, and have their speed limited to 65 mph.
Those drivers will not be allowed to transport hazardous materials, or drive trucks with more than one trailer.
The program will last for three years and the FMCSA hopes to enroll up to 3,000 drivers at a time.