18 to 20-Year Old Drivers


Current Department of Transportation regulations require a driver to be 20 or older in order to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce. The Motor Carrier Act of 1935 (“MCA”) created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which was responsible for regulating the transportation of passengers and property by motor carriers operating in interstate or foreign commerce.

In 1937, the ICC created and implemented safety regulations for commercial drivers, which included a minimum age of 20 years old. Therefore, an 18- to 20-year old who has the skills and maturity to obtain a CDL and begin working as a commercial driver can drive 250 miles from Kansas City, MO to St. Louis, MO. However, that same driver is barred from simply crossing the Missouri river from Kansas City, MO to Kansas City, KS. Moreover, federal law bars drivers under 20 from driving a truck within any state’s borders if the cargo on that truck originated outside of the state or will eventually leave the state by any mode (otherwise classified as “interstate” cargo).

CVTA’s Position

Current limitations on commercial drivers under 20 are impractical. The age restriction is particularly problematic given the growing shortage of drivers in the trucking industry is approximately 50,000 drivers short of what is necessary to fill empty trucks. This shortage is expected to increase rapidly over the next decade because of retirements and industry growth. In fact, this shortage is expected to increase so dramatically that trucking companies will have to recruit an estimated 89,000 new drivers (net) each year over the next decade to meet these growing demands.

CVTA supports lifting restrictions that prevent 18- to 20-year-old drivers from operating in interstate commerce with certain restrictions. Entry-level driver training (ELDT) standards, which are being implemented, will ensure all truck drivers will have a base-level proficiency leading to better trained and safer drivers. With the advent of new technologies such as advanced collision warning systems, lane departure warning systems, automatic braking, speed limiters, on-board video monitoring, stability control, automatic transmissions, electronic logging devices, and telematics, trucks are safer to operate than ever before. As automated technologies in trucks become even more advanced, trucking is positioned to once again be a career of choice for many technologically savvy young adults.

Additionally, career technical opportunities are becoming a more popular option for high school graduates because of the potential to acquire hard skills that are in-demand and lead to secure, well-paying jobs. The increased has given the trucking industry and policymakers an opportunity to mitigate the driver shortage. The post-secondary years are critical for 18-21-year-olds in making career decisions and should not have interstate trucking withheld as an option.

Other Top Policy Issues

ELDT Compliance & Delays

Background Since the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), Congress and the Department of Transportation...

Read More »