blog home Trucking Accident What the FMCSA Under-21 Truck Driver Pilot Program Means for Highway Safety

What the FMCSA Under-21 Truck Driver Pilot Program Means for Highway Safety

By Aghabegian & Associates on March 25, 2021

The responsibilities that come with driving a semi-truck can never be understated. Drivers are expected to travel hundreds of miles and safely transport large, heavy cargo, some of which include hazardous materials. One mistake could put dozens of people on the road in danger of suffering catastrophic, lifelong injuries, which is why only the most experienced and focused drivers should be given the job.

In fact, only drivers over the age of 21 years old may drive commercially across state lines. However, recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a drastic change to these rules.

What Is the Truck Driver Pilot Program?

For years, the trucking industry has struggled with a lack of consistent drivers. The job has a high turnover rate compared to other industries, especially when it involves interstate trucking routes. The many dangers that come with being a truck driver – including the high chances of a serious trucking accident – have pushed many to seek work elsewhere instead of continuing with the industry.

In response to this shortage, the FMCSA has proposed an under-21 commercial driver pilot program that would allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to apply and work as truck drivers. Through this pilot program, the FMCSA would measure the safety and viability of hiring younger drivers.

Here in California, anyone 18 or older can receive a commercial learner permit (CLP) and apply for a commercial driving license (CDL) if they have a clean driving record and pass an exam. However, these drivers can only operate within the borders of California and are not allowed to travel across state lines for work.

Back in 2018, the FMCSA started a similar program, but limited it to military service members between the ages of 18 and 20. This program required servicemembers to have relevant heavy-vehicle driving experience received while in the military, including the United States National Guard. These drivers must also be approved and hired by a trucking company that has been approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to participate in the pilot program.

Unlike this new proposed program, the military program relied on drivers who had previous experience and discipline from their time in the military. This is drastically different than employing drivers without similar experience.

How Inexperience Impacts Truck Accidents

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the severe need for more commercial drivers to ensure that businesses and consumers can receive critical products as quickly as possible – but only experienced drivers. We should never sacrifice safety in the name of economic pursuits, especially if the cost includes making our roads more dangerous. In a recent year, more than 151,000 people were injured in truck accidents and there were more than 4,950 individuals killed in truck accidents. The current focus should be on improving truck safety, reducing accident rates, and ensuring drivers are as experienced as possible.

87% of truck accidents are the result of driver error, which can include failing to respond to weather conditions, reckless maneuvers, poor response times, and other negligent actions. But one of the key factors that can prevent these accidents is proper experience and training. Putting the safety of our roads in the hands of inexperienced drivers could prove more dangerous than beneficial. Research has shown that truck accident rates are related to driver inexperience, whereas drivers with more commercial driving experience are less prone to serious mistakes.

Rather than lowering the age of drivers, trucking companies should work to improve the conditions for current experienced drivers to ensure they stay in the industry for longer periods, increasing the number of experienced drivers on the road.

Dealing With Trucking Insurance Companies

The current state of the trucking industry is in dire need to change, but until safety conditions improve, truck accidents will still occur across the country. Regular drivers and pedestrians rarely walk away with minor injuries after a collision with a full-sized truck. And after such a crash, these victims deserve proper compensation for their trauma — but they often face many difficulties in dealing with commercial insurance companies.

If you have been injured by a truck driver in Los Angeles County, do not hesitate to reach out to Aghabegian & Associates, PC. With our more than 40 years of combined experience, our Glendale accident attorneys can stand by you throughout a truck accident claim and advocate for your best interests. We are not afraid to go head-to-head with large trucking companies or their insurance providers. To schedule a free case evaluation, call Aghabegian & Associates, PC, at (818) 507-4311.

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