America's leading beverage companies are proud to play an important role in the American economy – supporting more than 264,000 good-paying jobs in cities and towns across the country. Thanks to a pilot program announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) last week, our workforce has an opportunity to create new jobs in the beverage and trucking industries for young adults.

A critical obstacle to attracting new drivers is that while virtually all states allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license at age 18, they are prohibited from operating in interstate commerce until they are 21. That means an 18-year old cannot drive a truck from Arlington, Virginia into Washington D.C., yet could drive that same truck across Virginia—from Arlington to Virginia Beach to Bristol. The 82-year old restriction is keeping qualified candidates from kick-starting their careers in the trucking industry and preventing the industry from filling hundreds of thousands of open jobs.

The new FMCSA pilot program allows younger drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. The program will allow drivers aged 18 to 20 to drive interstate after intensive safety training and considerable time behind the wheel in an apprenticeship capacity for a probationary period. Specifically, younger drivers would be split into two groups as part of the pilot:

  1. 18 to 20-year-old Commercial Drivers License (CDL) qualified drivers would be able to driver interstate as part of a 120-hour probationary period followed by a 280-hour apprenticeship program established by the employer;
  2. 19 and 20-year-old CDL-qualified drivers who have driven intrastate for at least one year and 25,000 miles.  Forty-nine states and D.C. currently allow CDL drivers aged 18 to 20 to drive intrastate.

Drivers participating in the pilot program would not be allowed to carry passengers nor transport hazardous materials.  The pilot program would run for three years once it begins, and FMCSA will collect monthly data from those enrolled to track driver safety and compliance during their apprenticeship. The agency acknowledges at least 200 drivers are needed for the pilot program since those enrolled no longer fit into the “younger driver” category once they turn 21. 

This pilot program builds on the major tenets of the DRIVE-Safe Act, a measure endorsed by the beverage industry.  Pilot programs allow employers to explore new, more efficient ways to do business, while adhering to stringent safety measures. If you would like to learn more about this pilot program visit the FMCSA website.