[Federal Register Volume 66, Number 34 (Tuesday, February 20, 2001)]
[Pages 10935-10938]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 01-4098]



Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

[FMCSA Docket No. FMCSA-2000-8410]

Younger Commercial Driver Pilot Training Program

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of receipt of proposal to initiate a pilot program; 
request for comments.


SUMMARY: The FMCSA announces it has received a proposal to initiate a 
pilot program to allow carefully selected, screened, trained and 
monitored individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 to work in truck 
driver jobs in interstate commerce. The FMCSA received the proposal 
from the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) for approval of a pilot 
program that would include providing each participant with an exemption 
under 49 CFR part 381. The proposal is available in the public docket. 
Under current regulations, a driver must be at least 21 years of age to 
operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). We request comments on TCA's 
proposed pilot program as part of our review process.

DATES: We must receive your comments by May 21, 2001. We will consider 
comments received after the comment closing date to the extent 

ADDRESSES: You can mail, fax, hand deliver or electronically submit 
written comments to the Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, Dockets Management Facility, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh 
Street SW., Washington, DC 20590-0001 FAX (202) 493-2251, on-line at 
http://dmses.dot.gov/submit. Comments submitted on the web site may be 
typed on-line or submitted as an attached file in one of the following 
acceptable formats: (1) American Standard Code Information Interchange 
(ASCII)(TXT); (2) MS Word for Mac (Versions 6 to 8); (4) Portable 
Document Format (PDF); (5) Tag Image File Format (TIF); (6) Rich Text 
File (RTF); or (7) Word Perfect (WPD) (Versions 7 and 8). You must 
include the docket number that appears in the heading of this document 
in your comment. You can examine and copy all comments at the above 
address from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays. If you want notification of receipt of comments, 
please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or postcard or 
include a copy of the acknowledgment page that appears after you submit 
comments electronically.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Angeli Sebastian, Office of Bus 
and Truck Standards and Operations, (202) 366-4001, or Ms. Elaine 
Walls, Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1394, Federal Motor 
Carrier Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 
20590. Our office hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., e.t., Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays.



    Under longstanding Federal safety regulations (49 CFR 
391.11(b)(1)), the minimum qualifications for a person to drive a CMV 
includes a requirement that the driver be at least 21 years of age. In 
its proposal, TCA states that the trucking industry has suffered from a 
long-standing and chronic shortage of drivers that has led to 
significant competition for drivers among trucking employers and high 
turnover. TCA's proposal is available for review in the public docket.
    TCA states that many trucking companies find themselves with 
equipment that is unused because they cannot hire and retain enough 
safe drivers. More particularly, TCA states that the Federal regulation 
mandating a minimum age of 21 for interstate drivers is a barrier to 
employment because the usual three-year wait after high school 
graduation to enter commercial driver employment encourages potential 
employees to settle in other career fields.
    TCA has asked the FMCSA to approve a pilot program on behalf of 
member companies who are willing to abide by the standards established 
for the program. These carriers would agree to incur the expense of 
providing job opportunities for drivers finishing the training program 
and for close supervision and monitoring of the safety progress of the 
younger drivers enrolled in the program. TCA's proposal would

[[Page 10936]]

allow a non-TCA member motor carrier to participate in the pilot 
program if it abides by all the standards established for the program.

FMCSA Authority Concerning Pilot Programs

    On June 9, 1998, the President signed the Transportation Equity Act 
for the 21st Century (TEA-21) (Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107). Section 
4007 of the TEA-21 amended 49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e) concerning the 
Secretary of Transportation's (the Secretary's) authority to grant 
waivers from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) for 
anyone seeking relief from the requirements. The statute provides the 
Secretary with the authority to grant waivers and exemptions.
    On December 8, 1998, the agency published an interim final rule on 
waivers, exemptions, and pilot programs (63 FR 67612). 49 CFR 381 
subparts D, E and F (sections 381.400 to 381.600) codifies section 
4007(c) of TEA-21 and explains the procedures followed by the agency 
when considering proposals for pilot programs.
    Section 4007 of the TEA-21 authorizes the Secretary to conduct 
pilot programs to allow innovative alternatives to certain provisions 
of the FMCSRs to be tested. During a pilot program, the FMCSA may grant 
an exemption to approved participants. These programs may include 
exemptions from one or more regulations. The FMCSA must publish in the 
Federal Register a detailed description of each pilot program, 
including the exemptions being considered, and provide notice and an 
opportunity for public comment before the effective date of the 
program. In order to approve a pilot program, FMCSA is required to 
demonstrate that the safety measures in the pilot programs are designed 
to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, 
the level of safety that would be achieved through compliance with the 
safety regulations. The duration of pilot programs is limited to three 
years from the starting date.
    The FMCSA is required to immediately revoke participation of a 
motor carrier, an operator of a commercial motor vehicle, or a driver 
for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the pilot 
program, or to immediately terminate a pilot program if continuing it 
is inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the safety regulations 
issued under the authority of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 313 or 49 U.S.C. 31136. 
These requirements are set out in 49 CFR 381.510.
    The pilot program plan must include a specific data collection and 
safety analysis plan that identifies a method for comparison for 
determining an equivalent level of safety. A reasonable number of 
participants are necessary to yield statistically valid findings. There 
must also be a plan to inform State partners and the public about the 
pilot program and to identify approved participants to safety 
compliance and enforcement personnel and to the public. The pilot 
program plan must include adequate countermeasures to protect the 
health and safety of study participants and the general public. An 
oversight plan must be in place to ensure that participants comply with 
the terms and conditions of participation.
    At the conclusion of each pilot program, the FMCSA is required to 
report its findings and conclusions of the study to Congress and make 
any recommendations it determines appropriate as a result of the study 
(see section 4007(c)(5) of the TEA-21 and 49 CFR 381.520). This would 
include suggesting amendments to laws and regulations that would 
enhance motor carrier, CMV, and driver safety and improve compliance 
with the FMCSRs.

Overview of the Proposed Pilot Program

    On October 2, 2000, the TCA sent the FMCSA a petition for a pilot 
program to allow drivers under age 21 to operate CMVs in interstate 
commerce. The proposal builds on earlier work the TCA discussed with 
staff at FMCSA and includes a proposed curriculum and a document 
labeled ``Questions and Answers.'' The petition and these two 
supporting documents are available in the public docket described under 
    The pilot program proposed by TCA would involve a minimum of 48 
weeks of intensive classroom and driving instruction and supervision 
that is designed to lead to full-time employment as an interstate 
commercial motor vehicle driver in the trucking industry. Each younger 
driver (18 to 21 years of age) would attend an approved truck driver 
training school for a minimum of 22 weeks and receive 8 weeks of 
training in a motor carrier's ``driver finishing'' program (a course of 
instruction and on-the-job training offered by motor carriers that 
would further develop the younger driver's basic skills, as well as 
develop greater maturity and judgment, under the daily direction and 
guidance of an experienced driver trainer). This would be followed by 
18 weeks of team driving with an older, more experienced driver. 
Younger drivers would be required to pass the performance standards of 
the entire 48-week program and reach the age of 19 to begin solo 

Structure of the Younger Commercial Driver Training and Exemption 
Pilot Program

    The proposed plan is grounded upon a consortium of participating 
schools and motor carriers that would train approximately 1000 drivers 
who are under the Federal minimum age requirement of 21. TCA's proposal 
stated that the number of participating schools is expected to be 
approximately ten.
    The proposal includes expressions of interest from The American 
Institute of Technology in Phoenix, AZ; John Wood Community College of 
Quincy, IL; National Tractor-Trailer School in Liverpool and Buffalo, 
NY; Allstate Career School in Lester, PA; Houston Community College in 
Houston, TX; Bates Technical Institute in Tacoma, WA; and Fox Valley 
Technical College in Appleton, WI. In addition, Arkansas State 
University in Newport, AR, and Delta Technical Institute in Marked 
Tree, AR, have submitted applications to have their driver training 
courses certified as equivalent to the curriculum submitted by TCA and 
developed by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) in order to 
participate in the pilot program.
    A new course of instruction has been developed specifically for the 
proposed pilot program. The course standards and curriculum were 
developed by PDTI based on the experience, needs and challenges facing 
an 18 to 20 year old driver. The proposed program involves a minimum of 
48 weeks of intensive classroom and behind-the-wheel (BTW) instruction 
and supervision that leads to full-time employment as an interstate 
commercial driver. TCA states that it is designed to provide qualified 
entry-level 18 to 20 year old drivers with a program of instruction in 
the safe and responsible operation of tractor-trailer vehicles that 
enables them to advance to solo drivers. The program would be nearly 4 
times the length of the average entry-level truck driver training 
course for students 21 and older. A regular PTDI-approved entry-level 
course lasts between 6 to 8 weeks. The proposed pilot program would 
require 22 weeks of instruction. The driver finishing phase for current 
entry-level training programs typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks. Driver 
finishing under the proposed pilot program would last 8 weeks. The 
proposed pilot program adds an

[[Page 10937]]

additional ``team driving'' requirement for 18 weeks before the 18 to 
20-year old is cleared to drive solo.
    PTDI/TCA hosted a meeting of interested motor carriers, truck 
driver training schools and insurance companies in Washington, DC on 
March 8 and 9, 2000, to review the PTDI Standards and Requirements for 
Entry-Level Tractor and Trailer courses and Certification Standards and 
Requirements for Tractor-trailer Driver Finishing Programs as a 
baseline for the development of the Younger Driver Program Standards. 
On May 3, 2000, the PDTI Board of Directors approved the skill, 
curriculum, and course standards that are included as attachment B to 
the TCA proposal in the docket.
    TCA expects that twenty carriers or fewer would participate in the 
proposed pilot program, and the proposal includes expressions of 
interest from Maverick Transportation in Little Rock, AR; P.A.M. 
Transport in Tontitown, AR; Ronnie Dowdy, Inc. in Batesville, AZ; 
Southern Transit in Fort Smith, AK; USA Truck in Van Buren, AR; Willis 
Shaw Express in Elm Springs, AR; PGT Trucking in Monaca, PA; US Express 
Enterprises in Chattanooga, TN; Schneider National Carrier, Inc. in 
Green Bay, WI; Werner Enterprises in Omaha, NE; D.M. Bowman in 
Williamsport, MD; and CRST in Cedar Rapids, IA.
    PTDI would prepare an application to identify qualifying schools 
and carriers, together with a self-evaluation report to help in the 
initial school and carrier selection process. It would send final 
standards and an application to interested schools and carriers in 
sufficient time for them to adopt any necessary changes before the 
pilot program begins. PTDI would prepare an evaluation manual for 
schools and carriers.

The Eligible Student Driver

    Under the proposed plan, a student would be required to meet 
minimum DOT, State, Federal and/or local laws and regulations related 
to physical requirements for truck drivers without any exemption 
required (except age), pass a drug screening test administered by the 
school, possess a driving record with no chargeable crashes (excluding 
minor crashes with damage only to property), have no DOT-reportable 
crashes, no serious speeding tickets (i.e., 15 miles above the posted 
limit), and have no citations or convictions in connection with crashes 
or traffic violations, such as, reckless driving or driving under the 
influence of drugs or alcohol. Under the proposal, if a student 
violates any one of the eligibility requirements in any phase of the 
pilot program, the student would be expelled from the program.
    In the proposal, each student would be required to be a high school 
graduate, hold a high school equivalency diploma, or be determined to 
have a demonstrated ``ability to benefit'' which requires passage of a 
standardized test administered by the United States Department of 
Education. A carrier participating in a pilot program would need to 
approve a student driver's qualifications; a carrier would need to make 
a conditional offer of employment when the student enters the program. 
Further, the potential student driver would need to pass a screening 
test, administered by a third party, that would inquire into a 
potential driver candidate's behavior, aptitude, strengths and 
weaknesses, and job expectations.

The Eligible School

    Under the proposal, an eligible school would be required to have a 
training course certified by PTDI or an equivalent course. The school 
would be required to have sufficient accreditation so that younger 
drivers are eligible for Federal student loans. Schools would need to 
secure certification from PTDI or an equivalent certifying-body for a 
new course that is designed especially for this pilot program. The new 
course would incorporate instruction material that teaches life skills, 
over-the-road management, financial management, and family management, 
as well as advanced truck driving knowledge and skills.
    Participants also would receive instruction in the U.S. Department 
of Transportation's ``No-Zone'' program, which provides information on 
the location of the truck's blind spots, the Federal Motor Carrier 
Safety Regulations, and other valuable information about how to share 
the road with other highway users.
    Under the proposal, the course would last a minimum of 22 weeks (or 
460 hours) and include 14 weeks (or 280 hours) of classroom instruction 
as well as 8 weeks (or 160 hours) of instruction actually in the truck. 
The student would spend at least 88 hours of the 160 total hours BTW, 
with an additional 72 hours spent either BTW or observing the operation 
of the truck by another student or course instructor. Tuition for the 
school portion of the proposed pilot program could range from $4,500-
$10,000 per student.

The Eligible Carrier

    Under the proposal, a carrier (employer) participating in the pilot 
program would have to have a ``Satisfactory'' U.S. DOT safety rating 
and a crash rate below the industry average, according to DOT 
statistics. Its insurance company would have to agree to provide 
coverage for younger drivers on a selective basis. The carrier would 
have to agree to assure trucks operated by the younger drivers would 
travel no more than 68 miles per hour and participate in a ``1-800 
How's My Driving'' or comparable program that allows motorists to 
report any unsafe driving behavior to the company through a toll free 
number. Further, the carrier would have to agree not to allow younger 
drivers to operate CMVs which would require any type of commercial 
driver's license endorsement (i.e., hazardous materials, double/triple 
trailers, tank vehicles, passengers) while in the program.

Program Monitoring

    The proposed pilot program would last 3 years and would include the 
following monitoring procedures and elements by the sponsor TCA:
    1. Finishing Program. A driver finishing program is a course of 
instruction and on-the-job training offered by motor carriers. The 
driver finishing program offered by participant carriers in the pilot 
program would have to be certified by PTDI (or an equivalent body) and 
include at least 8 weeks (or 460 hours) of training with a carefully 
screened, professional driver-trainer. Of the 460 hours, 288 would be 
BTW hours with a trained driver. The minimum number of hours is an 
average of 36 hours per week over the eight weeks of training and in 
strict compliance with the hours of service requirement. The additional 
172 hours could be observational or driving time. The participant 
carrier would pay each student an agreed upon rate during the finishing 
    Under the proposal, a driver-trainer would be required to be at 
least 25 years old, have at least one year of experience as a licensed 
commercial driver, and during the previous 12 months, have no 
chargeable/recordable crashes, have no driver out-of-service violations 
and no convictions for any violations listed in the commercial driver's 
license regulations (49 CFR 383.5 and 383.51). In addition, the driver-
trainer would be required to satisfy all State regulatory requirements 
and any additional requirements under the carrier's safety policies and 
meet all Federal or provincial motor carrier safety regulations or 
other Federal or State requirements that relate to the operation of a 
commercial motor vehicle. Finally, the driver-trainer would be required 
to be experienced in all four seasons of

[[Page 10938]]

driver operations; to have completed a 3-day program on coaching and 
communication skills; and to have satisfied company management, through 
examination or otherwise, that he or she is qualified to be a driver 
trainer in the pilot program. The carrier would be required to have a 
mentoring program that would assign a mentor to the younger driver from 
the first day of employment until the driver turned 21. Mentors would 
receive special training; interaction between the mentor and the 
younger driver would occur regularly, and mentors would be required to 
be outside the direct supervisory and appraisal loop of the training. 
The carrier would regularly communicate with the school regarding the 
student's progress through the program.
    2. Team Operations. After completion of the finishing program and 
after the school and carrier agree that a student exhibits the 
necessary and desirable skills and judgment, he or she would transition 
to a team operation for a minimum of 18 weeks (or 720 hours of BTW). 
Under the proposal, the lead team driver would have the following 
qualifications: 25 years of age or older; no chargeable (excluding 
minor damage to property only) or DOT-recordable crashes in the 
previous 12 months; no convictions for any violations listed in 
commercial driver's license regulations (49 CFR 383.5 and 383.51) in 
the previous 12 months; and at least one year of experience as an over-
the-road driver in solo operations. During the team-driving phase of 
the program, the younger driver would earn a salary that will be above 
the minimum wage.
    3. Solo Ready. Under the proposal, the carrier and school would 
agree when a student, who is at least 19 years of age, is eligible to 
drive solo. The carrier would monitor the driver's performance and 
provide safety training every three months until the driver was 21 
years of age. During the solo phase, students participating in the 
pilot program could change driving jobs, but only to work for another 
carrier participating in the pilot program. If a younger driver drops 
out, the exemption issued under the program would be revoked, and the 
student would not be eligible to drive a CMV until he or she reaches 
the age of 21.
    4. Monitoring and Evaluation. Under the TCA proposal, each carrier 
participating in the program would provide monitoring of each younger 
driver from the day the driver began team driving operations until the 
driver's 21st birthday. To satisfy the monitoring requirements, 
monitoring would, at a minimum, include: face-to-face meetings with the 
younger driver every 3 months; monthly reviews of the younger driver's 
hours-of-service logs; regular analysis of maintenance records for the 
truck operated by the younger driver; and immediate temporary or 
permanent suspension from driving in the event of any crashes, moving 
violations, or out-of-service violations.
    Carriers would follow a prescribed program to ensure, on a 
continuing basis, that the younger driver possessed and exhibited the 
skills and judgment necessary to operate a commercial motor vehicle 
safely. Participating carriers would be required to pay specific 
attention to hours-of-service compliance, out-of-service violations, 
crashes, and moving violations. TCA would develop and enforce 
disqualification criteria.
    TCA proposes that a younger driver would be temporarily removed 
from the pilot program if he or she received any citation, in a 
commercial or private vehicle, for speeding, driving under the 
influence, or reckless driving, and permanently removed if convicted. 
Any at-fault crash on public roads or highways would similarly bar a 
younger driver from continued participation in the pilot program. Any 
other violation or demonstrated instance of poor judgment would require 
the younger driver, if he or she desires to remain in the program, to 
submit to carrier or school-sponsored counseling to evaluate the 
driver's attitude, behavior, judgment, and understanding of applicable 

FMCSA Evaluation of the Proposal

    The FMCSA has received this proposal submitted in accord with 49 
CFR 381.410 and is interested in public comment on whether such a pilot 
program can ensure a level of safety that is equal to or greater than 
the level of safety achieved by CMV drivers 21 years of age or older 
who are not otherwise subject to specialized selection, training, and 
monitoring beyond that otherwise required by the CDL. The proposal 
includes screening and selection, lengthy training, follow-up, and 
monitoring elements. The FMCSA is interested in the specific make-up of 
the proposal and any additional procedures and monitoring elements that 
a commenter believes are necessary. For example, should FMCSA also 
require each mentor to meet with his or her assigned younger driver no 
less than once each month and for each younger driver to carry a 
telephone number of a responsible trainer or monitor that can be used 
by enforcement personnel if a driver or vehicle is placed out-of-
    If the FMCSA determines to go forward with a pilot program, it will 
propose for public comment its complete proposed pilot program, 
including a monitoring program to oversee continuous compliance to meet 
the requirements of the TEA-21 and our regulations.

Questions for Comment

    The FMCSA is soliciting comments on TCA's proposed pilot program to 
assist FMCSA in making a determination on whether it can proceed with a 
complete pilot program that will meet the requirements of the TEA-21 
and FMCSA regulations.
    1. Does TCA's proposed pilot program meet the standards for pilot 
programs outlined in the TEA-21 and FMCSA regulations (49 CFR part 381 
subparts D, E and F)?
    2. What factors should FMCSA consider when evaluating TCA's 
proposed pilot program?
    3. What methodology should the FMCSA use in determining the 
appropriateness of curriculum, criteria for selection of carriers, 
schools, and drivers?
    4. Could TCA's proposal achieve a level of safety that is 
equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be 
achieved by complying with the FMCSRs?
    5. Will subjecting younger drivers to more rigorous training and a 
finishing program achieve a level of safety equivalent to drivers 21 
years old or older who do not have to undergo such a program?
    6. At what point could the FMCSA issue an exemption to a younger 
driver participating in the training program?
    Commenters are not limited to responding to the above questions. 
Commenters may submit any facts or views consistent with the intent of 
this notice. Commenters should not submit other curricula proposals or 
other proposals to initiate pilot programs as part of a comment.

    Issued on: February 12, 2001.
Julie Anna Cirillo,
Assistant Administrator and Chief Safety Officer.
[FR Doc. 01-4098 Filed 2-16-01; 8:45 am]