Lowering the truck driving age limit: pros and cons

July 6, 2023 Christina DeBusk

On January 14, 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a notice stating that, although a previously proposed pilot program that would lower the truck driving age had never been implemented, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now required that this program be established. It is known as the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program.

What is the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) program

Under this pilot program—which has a maximum duration of three years—the age limit for obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for purposes of interstate commerce is lowered from 21 to 18. Once the program is complete, the FMCSA is required to share its results with Congress, along with making recommendations based on its findings or suggesting any changes to current laws.

The SDAP program has certain stipulations. One is that drivers must complete two probationary periods, the first being 120 hours and the second being 280 hours. Each one contains certain areas in which the driver has to show competence, such as safety awareness, mirror scanning and logging in the first apprenticeship and backing, weighting loads and coupling and uncoupling procedures in the second.

Certain technologies must also be used by these drivers. They include the truck having an active braking collision mitigation system as well as a forward-facing video event capture system.

Some people and organizations are for this program while others are against it. Here are some of the reasons cited for their opposing positions.

Pros of lowering the age limit

One of the major pushes behind lowering the age limit for commercial vehicle drivers is to help ease supply chain issues. The hope is that, by expanding the pool of eligible drivers to address driver shortage problems, transportation companies will find it easier to get their goods to their desired destinations.

Another benefit of allowing younger people to get their CDLs is that the 18 to 20-year-olds who are interested in this career field don’t have to wait to enter it. This is important because if someone wants to drive truck at the age of 18 but can’t get their license until they’re 21, what are they to do?

At a minimum, they will need to pursue another line of work until they reach the required age in order to bring in an income. After putting in time learning and gaining seniority in their other work, they may not want to make a switch to driving truck. In situations such as this, being prohibited from entering a career that they’re passionate about can easily result in the pursuit of a different path.

In the end, this could make the driver shortage worse instead of better while also keeping younger drivers from reaching their career goals.

Cons of allowing younger truck drivers

Not everyone is so ready to accept a reduced truck driver age. Several of the agencies opposing a lower age for truck drivers are safety-based, including Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the National Safety Council, among several others.

Their opposition is due to concerns that:

  • there is a greater risk of distraction with younger drivers
  • young drivers have a higher accident rate
  • teens aren’t able to correctly analyze a dangerous situation
  • younger drivers have difficulty navigating the nuances of different areas in relation to not just weather and terrain, but also differences in laws

Among those opposing the pilot program, it was recommended not only to disallow younger commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers but to raise the age of truck drivers instead. Some suggested that an age limit of 25 was more appropriate for handling the responsibilities of a CMV driver.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, if you need more truck drivers, Centerline is here to help.

Contact us today and we can talk about solutions for resolving your driver shortage issues—with less stress.

About the Author

Christina M. DeBusk creates small business content for a variety of publications, some of which include Businessing Magazine, Compendent, Chiropractic Economics, and more. She is also the author behind the column, "The Successful Solopreneur.

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