Lowering the Age Limit for CDL Drivers

Driving a semi-truck takes skill, maturity, and a sense of responsibility. When becoming interested in joining the trucking industry, drivers must be at least 21 years of age before perusing their CDL. Does age define a person’s maturity?
Lower CDL Age Limit


The debate of putting younger drivers behind the wheel of commercial vehicles has been going on for some time now. Two bills were suggested to the House of Representatives in 2018 to try and lower the minimum age of CDL holders.

Supporters of lowing the minimum age believe that this would be the solution to the trucking industry shortage. However, with every attempt to lower the age, there has always been some dismissal.

As the law states today, drivers must be at least 21 years of age to operate large trucks across the state line. However, the Department of Transportation released a pilot program that allows some 18-year-old drivers to drive cross-country for individual non-public companies. Members of the National Guard and other’s with military experience can participate in this program.

Mandates for Young Drivers

DRIVE Safe Act [S.3352 + H.R. 5358] was brought to the House by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA50) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). If passed would allow the minimum age of interstate commercial driving to the age of 18. If this bill does pass, drivers must complete 240 hours with an experienced driver while over-the-road.

If the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Act bill passes for younger drivers to operate commercial vehicles, there will likely be some restrictions. These can include:

120 trainee hours. 80 of these hours should be done in a commercial vehicle. Also, some safety and skill requirements must be met, such as:

  • Interstate, light city traffic, rural four two-lane, and evening driving
  • Lane control
  • Logging and complying with rules concerning hours of service
  • Mirror scanning
  • Right and Left turns
  • Safety awareness
  • Speed and space management

Probational Period of 280 hours. 160 of these hours should be in the driver’s seat to see if the individual has the following skill sets:

  • Backing and moving into small quarters
  • Pre-trip inspections
  • Fuelling
  • Weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems
  • Coupling and uncoupling
  • Trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation, and permits
  • Transporting hazardous materials, if adequately endorsed

Should CDL Age Requirements be Lowered?

The discussion as to if the CDL age requirements should be lowered could have many different effects on all involved. While in the trucking industry, there are countless drivers still choosing this as a career path, the American Trucking Associations has seen a decline over the years. Some individuals believe that the reason behind the shortage is because of the talk of lowering the CDL age requirement.

As it stands today, the minimum age for an individual to hold a CDL is 21 years old. While some states do allow younger drivers to operate a commercial truck; the drivers must stay within their current state. The reasoning for lowering the minimum requirement to the age of 18 or 19 is to help increase the current driver shortage.

Safety Issues?

There have also been some arguments regarding the possible increase of vehicle accidents if younger individuals are allowed behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. Even though the ATA states the new proposed bill will “strengthen training programs beyond current requirements to ensure safety and that drivers are best prepared” not everyone agrees with this statement.

Many individuals believe that not only is safety an issue, but maturity. According to vice president and general counsel for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Henry Jasny states, “younger drivers have higher crash rates. We have concerns about younger people who have less experience and less judgment going from state to state, from rural to urban areas.”

This concern stems from the statistics given by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Teenagers 16-19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those older than 20 years of age.
  • Teenagers 16-19 are linked to at least 11% of vehicle accidents.

Unfortunately, there is not enough data on drivers ages 18-20. However, some studies show that younger drivers are more dangerous, according to the Washington Post.

Arguments from Both Sides

Below are the arguments from both supporters and opponents:

Supporters Side:

  1. Rise in the trucking industry and help resolve the driver shortage.
  2. Allow new younger drivers to take the place of those retiring within the next decade.
  3. Build more prospects for high school graduates to create a distinguished career.
  4. Allow drivers 18-20 to travel across state lines and earn higher revenue.

Opponents Side:

  1. Individuals under the age of 21 do not have as much driving experience and can be at a higher risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents.
  2. Laws oppose refining trucking industry standards.
  3. Urge to keep current driver wages at a low minimum.

With the driver shortage at an all-time low, the trucking industry needs well-qualified drivers to help fill these positions. Whether Congress passes the lower CDL minimum age, Landstar is always looking for qualified owner-operators. If you are ready to be in control of your own business, choosing your own hours, and own loads, contact Landstar today. Landstar will put you on the right road path to success.