Statement on Dangerous Proposals to Allow “Teen Truckers” to Operate in Interstate Commerce

  • May 20, 2019
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


Contact: Pete Daniels 202-408-1711   (c) 301-442-2249

Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, On Dangerous Proposals to Allow “Teen Truckers” to Operate in Interstate Commerce

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) staunchly opposes any proposal that would permit drivers under the age of 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMV) in interstate commerce.  This “teen trucker” push to lower the age to obtain an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL) is broadly opposed by a diverse coalition of consumer, public health and safety groups, motor carriers, truck drivers, and truck crash victims and survivors.

The latest move by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to establish a pilot program lowering the age to obtain a CDL for interstate CMV drivers from 21 to 18 is not only seriously misguided but will also pose a significant risk to public safety.  Advocates will be filing public comments in opposition to this proposal.  We also strongly oppose the so-called DRIVE-Safe Act (S. 569/H.R. 1374), a bill that would similarly lower the age for interstate CMV drivers to 18.  Unfortunately, proponents of the bill are peddling misleading information that ignores the major safety consequences that would result from this legislation.  Advocates has debunked the myths being perpetuated in support of this bill – click here to get the facts.

The safety threat posed by young CMV drivers is clear; drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.  Additionally, CMV drivers between the ages of 19-20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.  This alarming reality is not surprising given that younger drivers lack experience and tend to take greater risks.  Research has also shown that the development of portions of the brain vital to decision making, specifically the pre-frontal cortex, may not be fully reached until one’s mid-20s.

These proposals seem particularly ill-advised given the fact that truck crash deaths are on the rise.  In 2017, 4,761 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks.  This is an increase of 9 percent from the previous year and an increase of 41 percent since 2009.  Additionally, 148,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2017.  In fatal two-vehicle crashes between a large truck and a passenger motor vehicle, 97 percent of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle.

Allowing teenagers to drive trucks in interstate commerce will do nothing to address the core issue at hand — the untenable problems with dangerous truck driver working conditions.  Currently, a staggeringly high driver turnover rate of over 90 percent exists among many large truckload carriers.  Several factors contribute to this shocking and enduring statistic, and solutions are readily available that don’t needlessly endanger the traveling public.  Moreover, a recent study by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics concluded there is no inordinate labor shortage in the trucking industry and that improved conditions would likely help with driver retention.

This graduation season, kids should not be heading from the prom to the pavement.