The Dangers of Young Commercial Truck Drivers
Truck Side Mirror

Young commercial truck drivers – as young as 18 – driving across the nation may soon be a reality.

There is a commercial truck driver shortage.  Even before COVID-19 the trucking industry was reporting a dire need for new truck drivers.

Responding to this truck industry concern, Congress passed the DRIVE-Safe Act, included in the federal infrastructure bill that was adopted in November 2021. It allows 18-year-olds to drive large commercial trucks across state lines.

18-Year-Old Interstate Commercial Truck Drivers

The new law mandates a two-year pilot program for young commercial truck drivers.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – the federal agency that oversees the nation’s commercial trucking industry – reportedly expects 40,000 new, young truck drivers in this test run.

An abundance of evidence shows that younger drivers are more likely to crash than those more experienced and older.  So a concern that these 18-year-old truck drivers may cause more truck crashes – even while truck crashes have increased in recent years - is well-founded.

The federal government placed stringent conditions before a young truck driver can obtain a commercial motor vehicle license under this pilot program. These include:

  • The young driver must train with an experienced truck driver – at least 26 years old – seated in the passenger seat
  • The experienced commercial truck driver must have at least five years’ experience driving on interstate highways
  • The young driver must have at least 80 hours of commercial truck driving

The young truck driver and experienced truck driver also must train in a commercial rig that has the latest safety technology features, which include:

  • Active braking mitigation systems
  • Speed limiters that are set no faster than 65 mph

Preventing Fatal Commercial Truck Crashes

Many commercial trucking safety advocates have called for industry-wide implementation of these safety features, regardless of age or experience of truck drivers, to address common causes of fatal truck crashes.

The Truck Safety Coalition, an organization focused on reducing deadly truck accidents, says that automated braking systems can reduce truck rear-end collisions, many caused by distracted truck drivers, by 71%.

And the Truck Safety Coalition is in favor of a speed limiter mandate (set no faster than 65 mph) for all commercial trucks as another way to prevent fatal commercial truck accidents.

There is opposition to having interstate commercial truck drivers as young as 18 years old.

A coalition of safety groups, led by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, says that commercial motor vehicle drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be in a fatal crash, and those between the ages of 19 and 20 are six times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

The trucking industry’s call for young truck drivers despite potential dangers, as well as a lack of outfitting all trucks with the latest safety features, are examples of commercial trucking companies seemingly putting profits before the safety of other drivers. Irresponsible conduct and decisions may cost people their lives.

If you were seriously injured or lost a family member in a crash with a commercial truck, speak with a personal injury attorney about your legal rights to just compensation.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog January 14, 2022


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