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Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program

Have a question about the Under 21 Pilot program that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is implementing? Below is a list of frequently asked questions(FAQs).


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Why is FMCSA doing this pilot program?

FMCSA is doing this pilot for two reasons.  First, Section 5404 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act requires FMCSA …”to establish a pilot program to study the feasibility, benefits, and safety impacts of allowing a driver under the age of 21 to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.  Through this pilot program, FMCSA will collect and analyze data relating to crashes by a participating driver.”  The FAST Act prohibits the pilot program drivers from transporting passengers or hazardous materials, or operating special configuration vehicles.

Second, FMCSA has been proactively seeking opportunities for military veterans to seamlessly transition from active duty into careers in transportation.  Using these well-trained drivers as part of the pilot program will provide qualified and experienced drivers to work for companies looking for their skills, The pilot program will assist in filling the driver shortage while also allowing sponsors and the pilot research team to evaluate the safety performance of under-21 commercial drivers in interstate commerce but in a highly-controlled environment.

Why can’t 18-20 year olds have CDLs now?

FMCSA and its predecessor agency, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), have considered this issue several times in the past 40 years.  Most recently, FMCSA published a final rule on “Commercial Driver’s License Testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit Standards” (76 FR 26854).  In this rule, the Agency set a minimum age of 18 for an individual to obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP).  Currently 18, 19 and 20-year-old CLP holders are allowed to drive in intra-state commerce only.  Therefore, the proposed pilot program provides relief from sections of 49 CFR parts 383 and 391 concerning minimum age requirements.

Why is this limited to military veterans?

The specific requirements for this pilot were identified in Section 5404 of the FAST Act. While many intra-state CMV drivers are already in this age group 18 - 20, the Agency is not aware of any studies or published reports comparing the safety performance records of these intrastate drivers with either intrastate drivers over the age of 21 or interstate drivers over the age of 21.

This pilot program proposes to utilize a study group of drivers under the age of 21, who have trained on and operated heavy vehicles while in military service.  It is likely that most study group members would be reservists or National Guard members as these people will be able to drive for the sponsor carrier during the weekdays.  Persons who meet the qualifications described later in this notice may apply to a participating motor carrier for study group sponsorship, which, if approved, would allow the individual to operate a CMV in inter-state commerce while under age 21. 

What training and experience does the military give these drivers?

Four armed forces branch of the Department of Defense (DoD) – Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps – provide materials used in specific training dedicated to operating heavy-duty trucks and buses. Additional training for other types of heavy-duty specialty vehicles (e.g., gasoline haulers, construction vehicles, and military equipment transport oversize/overweight [non-track vehicles]) were also provided from these service branches.

The four basic training programs for heavy vehicle operations, based on the occupational specialty code of the service member were reviewed by both FMCSA and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) and determined to be equal to or greater than the standard required for a civilian CDL applicant:

  • Army - 88M; Motor Transport Operator
  • Army - 92F; Fueler
  • Air Force - 2T1; Vehicle Operations
  • Air Force - 2F0; Fueler
  • Air Force - 3E2 - Pavement and Construction Equiptment
  • Marive Corps - 3531; Motor Vehicle Operator
  • Navy - EO; Equipment Operator

Details on these programs are in the Federal Register notice announcing the program.

How long is the pilot program?

The pilot program is planned for 3 years.  Following the conclusion of the Pilot, FMCSA has one year to evaluate the data and make recommendations to Congress.  FMCSA retains the right to remove any participating carrier or driver from the pilot program for substantial reasons, including, but not limited to, failing to meet or retain all requirements of the pilot program.

How many companies and drivers will be involved?

To have a statistically valid sample of drivers under the age of 21, approximately 200 study group participants as well as 200 control drivers are desired.  Congress also directed FMCSA to collect data on current intrastate drivers under the age of 21. When these individuals reach the age of 21, they would no longer participate in the pilot program and would be replaced by new study group members meeting the eligibility requirements. 

There is no limit to the number of carriers which may apply to participate in the program but FMCSA anticipates somewhere between 30 – 50 companies will ultimately be accepted.

How does a company let FMCSA know if it is interested?

Interested motor carriers will be required to:

  • Complete the application for acceptance during the announce application period;
  • Agree to supply control group drivers in numbers matching the study group drivers to be employed;
  • Agree to comply with all pilot program procedures;
  • Agree to submit required pilot program data reports monthly;
  • Monitor and report safety records of study and control group members as required by FMCSA; and
  • Have and maintain a good safety record in accordance with the prescribed criteria to be both admitted to the Pilot and remain in the Pilot.

Interested motor carriers will apply for acceptance to the Pilot via the website.  The application will include basic registration and contact information on the carrier as well as other information pertinent to the research program.

What are the responsibilities of participating drivers?

Interested drivers will be required to:

  • Apply for employment directly to an approved Pilot carrier listed on the FMCSA website;
  • Be 18, 19, or 20 years of age as of the date they are approved by FMCSA for particiaption;
  • Have certification from a military service of training and experience in driving heavy vehicles while in military service, as described in Question 4 of this notice;
  • Agree to the release of specific information to FMCSA for purposes of the pilot;
  • Meet all of the driver safety criteria specified;
  • Meet all FMCSR requirements (except age) for operating a CMV in interstate commerce;
  • Operate primarily in interstate commerce if selected; and
  • Understand the applicant is not allowed to transport passengers, hazardous materials, or operate double- or triple-trailer combinations or cargo tank vehicles while participating in the pilot, regardless of any license endorsements held.

What are the responsibilities of the volunteer (control group) drivers?

Participating carriers accepted in to the Pilot program will be required to provide drivers to serve in the Control group at the same number of drivers as in the Pilot:

  • Control drivers will be made aware they are being monitored during the pilot;
  • Possess a valid CDL;
  • Ages 21 to 26 at time of acceptance in the pilot.
  • Be a full-time driver for participating motor carrier;
  • Have no disqualifications, suspensions, or license revocations within past 3 years; or be under any out-of-service order;
  • Agree to release of specified information for pilot program;
  • Training and experience comparable to study group drivers, regardless of the source; and
  • Sign a release form indicating they understanding FMCSA will be collecting data on their driving history as a part of the study.

How will FMCSA announce the program is active?

FMCSA will publish a subsequent notice in the Federal Register announcing the final details of the program.

FMCSA will work with the Department of Defense, all branches of the military plus the Chiefs of the Reserve and National Guard components to solicit entry in to the study.

FMCSA will actively solicit employer / carrier participation in the study through the various trade associations and publications.

How will the pilot /control and intrastate drivers be evaluated for safety under the pilot?

FMCSA proposes to collect the following information from each participating driver before and during the pilot program:

  • Details of any past CMV driving experience and demographic information, to assess qualification for participation in the study and/or control groups;
  • Crashes (to be specified)
  • Any traffic citations or warnings received while driving a CMV;
  • Any violations or warnings listed on a CMV inspection report when the participating driver was operating the vehicle, and
  • Detailed 24-hour records of activity to include CMV hours-of-service logs or electronic records.

Some of this information normally should be automatically reported to FMCSA; however, due to possibility of delays in reporting and inaccurate data in some instances, the participating carrier would be asked to collect the information from all participating drivers and report it to FMCSA in a designated format.  Other information that may be needed, such as vehicle miles traveled (VMT), would also be collected through the participating carrier. 

Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017
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