( The Packer )

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended the comment period for a possible pilot program that would allow drivers under age 21 to operate trucks over interstate highways.

The comment period has been extended from July 15 to Aug. 14, according to a Federal Register notice.

The agency said it received a request from the American Truck Associations to extend the comment period.

The May 15 notice from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that revealed the possible pilot program has received 899 comments by July 22.

In comments to the agency posted at regulations.gov, the International Foodservice Distributors Association said it supports the pilot program.

The group said that beginning in February 2020, all 48 contiguous states will allow drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate in intrastate commerce at the age of 18.

“These states have determined that these drivers can safely operate a (commercial motor vehicle),” the group said. “Unfortunately federal rules bar the foodservice distribution industry from hiring these drivers for lucrative careers with good salaries and benefits because they would be engaged in interstate commerce.”

The group said the pilot program must: 

  • Be structured to yield a dataset that reflects the actual safety experiences of younger drivers;
  • Include as many drivers representing as many operational types and industry segments as possible;
  • Ensure that drivers should not be required to complete additional training requirements or meet experiential minimums prior to being enrolled in the study;
  • Ensure that the younger driver study group is compared to commercial motor vehicle drivers aged 21-24 in the control group; and
  • Should not include a requirement for motor carrier to establish formal apprenticeship programs according to Department of Labor standards.

Other comments at regulations.gov suggested that big carriers were trying to find a pool of younger drivers at cheaper rates.

In one comment, Paul Johnson wrote “I know you all tend to let the large companies hoodwink you into believing these changes are about safety. I assure you 100% it is not. Just like the electronic logging device mandate. It was never about safety, it was about removing an advantage their competitors had. Make no mistake about it, this is 100% large companies trying to take as much cheap labor as they can. There is a shortage of people willing to undertake this career for the low wages mega carriers are giving their employees, so they see this as a huge pool of young people they can convince to work for them for even cheaper wages.”