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Congress Considers Allowing 18-Year-Olds to Become Cross-Country Truckers

The new infrastructure bill contains a provision aimed at broadening the labor pool in the long-haul trucking industry: allowing drivers under the age of 21. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is behind the pilot program, which would impose different rules and restrictions on drivers, depending on their ages. Right now, drivers as young as 18 are allowed to operate commercial trucks within 49 states, so that Peterbilt next to you on the highway might already be helmed by a Zoomer. But interstate commerce is a different kind of job—more of a lifestyle, you could say—and one that's heretofore been deemed unsuitable to teen drivers. Soon, we might find out whether that's really true.

The rules would be stricter for 18-year-olds, who'd have to hold a commercial driver's license for intrastate commerce and complete two probationary periods—one 120-hour probation and a 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program set up by an employer. Drivers who are 19 or 20 years old could do the same thing, or become eligible if they've held a CDL and driven within their state for at least one year and 25,000 miles. If, right now, you're saying, "But don't 18-year-olds already drive gigantic vehicles if they join the military?" the answer is yes, they do. And since 2018, the Military Commercial Driver Pilot Program has allowed some 18-to-20-year olds with military training to drive trucks between states. So there's a precedent for this. And no, the under-21 crowd won't be allowed to carry passengers or schlep toxic waste.

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