It is undisputed: there is a commercial truck driver shortage across the U.S.
The Trump administration is pushing forward on a pilot program that would allow people as young as 18 years old to drive commercial trucks. The pilot program will train young people with military experience; it is laying the groundwork for lowering the minimum age to get a commercial driver’s license.
But there are good reasons that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires commercial drivers to be at least 21 years old to drive big rigs across state lines.
They are 3x more likely to cause a deadly crash.
There is already about 500,000 truck crashes each year.
5,000 of those crashes involve a fatality. 130,000 involve injuries.
Motor vehicle drivers ages 16-19 years are nearly three times
more likely than people over age 20 to cause a fatal crash.
Think of the responsibility that comes with driving an 18-wheeler that’s carrying 80,000 pounds of cargo on public highways and narrow streets.
Do you want an inexperienced teenager driving that huge semi-truck next to your car?
In the interest of public safety, the minimum age for commercial drivers should remain at 21 years old.
Training is inadequate—at best.
We don’t have national training standards for commercial truck driving.
States have their own training requirements. But in my three decades as an attorney for people injured in collisions, I’ve seen inexperienced, poorly-trained drivers do tremendous damage. Training is often randomly executed and inadequately prepares drivers for real-world conditions.
If companies want to put teenagers in big rigs on our public highways, then they need to agree to national training standards. National standards based upon safety principles and governed by law.
A better option to fix truck driver shortage
Putting teenagers in semi-trucks on interstate highways isn’t the only option.
If trucking companies want to attract new drivers, then they could try offering increased pay and benefits.
Smaller fleets have had success offering minimum guarantees.
It has always been surprising to me how low the pay is for commercial drivers who spend so much time away from family and on the road. Companies need to consider what financial options are available to bring in drivers who meet the current minimum age requirements.