The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is currently working in partnership with the United States military to recruit 18 to 20-year-old commercial drivers. The Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program will run for three years. During this timeframe, program recruits will have the legal authority to operate commercial vehicles interstate.
Qualifications to participate in the program
Recruits aged 18, 19, or 20 must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and meet the following qualifications:
- A participating motor carrier must sponsor (hire) the driver
- While in the military, the 18 to 20-year-old driver must have received training to operate heavy vehicles and have previous experience doing so
- Must carry a job rating approval or designated MOS for this program
Additionally, prospective commercial drivers must have obtained one of the following military classifications:
- Air Force: 2T1 Vehicle Operator, 2F0 Fueler, or 3E2 Pavement and Construction Equipment Operator
- Army: 88M Motor Transport Operator or 92F Fueler
- Marines: 3531 Motor Vehicle Operator
- Navy: EO Equipment Operator
Applicants who meet the above qualifications must still abide by some FMCSA restrictions. For example, they can’t transport passengers or hazardous materials nor can they operate any type of special configuration vehicle.
How the FMCSA will evaluate program effectiveness
The FMCSA will continually receive and evaluate safety records of the under 21 drivers and compare them to a control group of commercial interstate drivers ages 21 to 24. Members of the control group must also have a CDL and similar experience and training with driving commercial vehicles. All approved drivers for the Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program must carry an FMCSA exemption letter in their vehicle and show it to law enforcement or inspectors upon request.
The purpose of comparing safety data between the 18-20 group and the 21-24 group is to determine the degree to which age impacts safe driving. The FMCSA will release general statistics from safety reports to the Department of Transportation (DOT). After reviewing the information, the DOT will forward the information to Congress along with its recommendations on whether to make the pilot program permanent or not. Commercial drivers will automatically phase out of the pilot program on their 21st birthday.
How motor carriers can participate in the Pilot Program
A trucking company or trucking operations business involved in interstate commerce must meet several criteria to hire an 18, 19, or 20-year old driver. These include:
- Submit a formal application and receive approval
- Supply an equal number of pilot group and control group drivers
- Train new drivers to abide by all FMCSA regulations
- Install electronic logging devices in the vehicles of both groups of drivers
- Submit monthly reports containing pilot program data
- Monitor and report on safety concerns for both groups
- Choose control group drivers ages 21-24 with adequate training and no disqualifications
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