There’s a truck driver shortage in America and it ain’t getting any better. We’ve written about the shortage since 2014, What to do About the truck Driver Shortage. We’ve asked Why Aren’t There More Women Truck Drivers, and we’ve wondered How the Millennial Generation Will Impact the Trucking Industry. However, we’ve never considered if under 21-year-old drivers could relieve some of the pressure, but the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) did.
The FMCSA’s idea is to create a study comparing the safety records of 18 to 20-year old drivers to older drivers (21 to 24). The covered group would only include 18 to 20-year-old certified in MOS (roughly translated into our military’s version of a CDL license.) Currently, these drivers can legally operate heavy trucks within state boundaries. The FMCSA plans to allow the test group to drive interstate.
“The purpose of the Under 21 pilot program will be to determine whether persons under the age of 21 can safely operate CMVs in interstate commerce, and to enhance opportunities for persons with relevant military training to enter the CMV industry. While many intrastate CMV drivers are already in this age group, the Agency is not aware of any studies or published reports comparing their safety performance with that of drivers over 21, either interstate or intrastate.” — FMCSA under 21 test programs
Will it Work?
That’s the hundred-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it? Our gut tells us that military trained young drivers will pass the test in flying colors. Unfortunately, if the program eventually is opened to non-military drivers the facts are less positive.
In 2015, 2,333 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and 235,845 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That means that six teens, ages 16–19, died every day from motor vehicle injuries.
In 2013, young people ages 15-19 represented only 7% of the U.S. population. However, they accounted for 11% ($10 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.” — CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
How it Will Work
The FMCSA has been working towards this test program for several years. “The agency says the plan is to have approximately 50 fleets participating in the program at a time who will hire a combined 200 current or former members of the armed forces or reserve and National Guard components between the ages of 18 and 20 annually. These carriers will also need a combined 200 under-21 intrastate drivers and 200 drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 as a control group to compare safety data during the program.” — FMCSA proposes plan for pilot program for under-21 truckers with military experience.
We Applaud the FMCSA
We support and applaud FMCSA’s effort to decrease the truck driver shortage, because we believe that military trained drivers, less than 21-years-old, will meet and beat the industry safety numbers. And we hope the overall safety figures for the general population of under 21-year-old drivers isn’t an indication of what to expect from professionally trained drivers regardless of age. Our belief is that trained working drivers, of any age, take their profession more seriously than casual drivers. We hope so. The trucking industry can use all the help recruiting drivers that it can get.