Organization opposed to pilot program lowering commercial driving age to 18

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GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — A pilot program will allow younger drivers behind the wheel of a semi, but one national organization with headquarters in Grain Valley, Missouri is strongly opposed to the overall idea.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson is 1 of 15 governors who called for the age to get a commercial drivers license to be lowered from 21 to 18 as part of Operation Open Roads Initiative in November.

That recommendation came just days after that pilot program was announced as part of the Infrastructure Bill.

You only have to be 18 to get a commercial drivers license in 49 states, but there’s a catch. Since the federal minimum age is 21, you can’t cross state lines, much to the disappointment of people hoping to learn to drive trucks at schools like Roadmaster Driver School in Grandview.

“We get phone calls everyday from people under the age of 21 that would like to become a truck driver,” Brad Ball, president of the company with 19 locations nationwide, said.

A new apprentice pilot program included in the Infrastructure Bill will allow drivers between the age of 18 and 20 to get interstate CDLs with 240 hours of driving time accompanied by an experienced driver.

It’s a move Grain Valley’s Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association and its 150,000 members don’t support.

“We feel if they want to make a 150 mile radius that’s fine, but this deal of letting younger people just go all over the country, it’s unsafe, it’s crazy. We all know that younger people crash more. They have more accidents,” Lewie Pugh, OOIDA Executive V.P., said.

Leaders hope by lowering the age to get a CDL they’ll help solve two problems, a truck driver shortage of 80,000 drivers by some estimates, and the supply chain problem plaguing businesses. But OOIDA said the industry has a retention problem and it isn’t to blame for empty shelves.

“This whole supply chain problem isn’t because there isn’t enough trucks you want to put more trucks out on the highway all you are going to see is longer lines at shippers, longer lines at piers, ports receiving docks everywhere,” Pugh said.

Young drivers in the pilot program will drive special trucks with safety features like adaptive cruise control keeping trucks under 65 miles per hour.

“It’s certainly our hope that the pilot program will prove that 18-20 year olds can be safe professional truck drivers,” Ball said.

Parson has also signed an executive order creating the Supply Chain Task Force to look at other possible solutions. The task force created in November has yet to meet, but plan to soon with a June deadline to come up with recommendations.

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