On August 22, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a Federal Register Notice titled, “Commercial Driver's Licenses; Proposed Pilot Program to Allow Persons Between the Ages of 18 and 21 with Military Driving Experience to Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce.” (81 FR 56745). The purpose of the notice was to notify the public that FMCSA proposed to initiate a pilot program. The proposed pilot program would allow individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce, if they have received specified heavy-vehicle driver training while in military service and are sponsored by a participating motor carrier. A second Federal Register Notice titled, “Proposed Pilot Program to Allow Persons Between the Ages of 18 and 21 With Military Driving Experience To Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce” (83 FR 31633) was published on July 6, 2018, that addressed comments received on the 2016 notice, summarized the anticipated number of carriers and drivers needed for the program, and detailed the minimum standards for motor carriers and drivers to participate.
As a result of both notices, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) received multiple comments asking for a second pilot study to be conducted on all drivers between the ages of 18-21 to operate CMVs in interstate commerce, to assess their safety performance under certain, limited conditions.
Question 1: Why is the FMCSA considering a second pilot program?
Answer 1: On August 22, 2016, FMCSA published a notice of proposed pilot program and requested comments in the Federal Register titled, “Commercial Driver’s Licenses; Proposed Pilot Program to Allow Persons Between the Ages of 18 and 21 with Military Driving Experience to Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce” [81 FR 56745]. In response, the Agency received 67 comments to the docket, 18 of which asked the Agency to expand the current pilot program or initiate a new one specifically for younger drivers to operate in the agricultural sector.
Additionally, each of the 48 contiguous States currently allows Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders under the age of 21 to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce. In large States such as California, Texas and Florida, these drivers are operating for hundreds of miles and several hours within the State in operations that are comparable to interstate commerce. Given the chronic shortage of new drivers entering the industry, FMCSA is interested in evaluating their safety performance in interstate commerce.
Question 2: How is this pilot program different than the Under 21 Military CDL pilot program?
Answer 2: The original Under 21 Military CDL pilot program was required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act and only allows individuals between the ages of 18 and 21, who are members or former members of the armed forces or reserve components and are qualified in one of seven Military Occupational Specialties to operate a CMV or similar vehicle in interstate commerce. The second pilot program would potentially expand the pool of interstate CMV drivers by allowing non-military 18 to 21-year-old drivers, with specific minimum training or experience, to operate across State lines.
Question 3: Why are 18 to 20-year-olds not allowed to operate a CMV across State lines now?
Answer 3: Section 391.11 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) requires drivers to be at least 21 years old to operate in interstate commerce. However, 49 CFR 383.71 does allow drivers to obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) or CDL at 18 years old and operate in intrastate commerce. As a result, all 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia currently allow 18, 19, and 20-year-old drivers to operate in intrastate commerce with a CLP or CDL.
Question 4: Will minimum training and experience be required to be eligible for this pilot?
Answer 4: Yes. The Federal Register notice published on May 15, 2019, is specifically seeking input on minimum training and/or experience.
Question 5: How long would the pilot program be?
Answer 5: The timeframe for the pilot program has not been decided; however, 49 CFR part 381, Subpart D only permits FMCSA to run a pilot program for a maximum of 3 years.
Question 6: How many companies and drivers will be involved?
Answer 6: Under the Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program, FMCSA anticipated that it would need 70 motor carriers that would supply 200 covered drivers and 200 control group drivers for the pilot program for statistically-valid results. The Agency anticipates needing these numbers, at a minimum.
Question 7: How will FMCSA provide additional information on this second pilot program?
Answer 7: FMCSA is committed to ensuring that all interested parties are updated on any second pilot program by publishing subsequent Federal Register notices and providing information on the Agency’s website.
Question 8: When will FMCSA launch the pilot?
Answer 8: The FMCSA is in the preliminary stages of establishing the requirements for the second Under 21 Pilot Program and does not have a date for launching a potential second pilot program. As noted above, FMCSA will provide updates on the status through Federal Register notices and the Agency’s website.
Question 9: What are the qualification criteria for the second Under 21 CDL Pilot Program?