Teens and Big Trucks: Should They Be Allowed to Drive?

Should teens be able to drive big trucks? Right now you can’t drive a rental car until 25, but you can start driving 80,000 pound trucks at 21 interstate and intrastate(in most states) at 18. If a new law passes, younger drivers may soon be able to drive heavy trucks across state borders. Proposed regulation wants to change the age limit for interstate trucking to 18, with some provisional conditions. What do you think? Will this new regulation help get more drivers on the road or is the safety risk much too great?

The Risks of Younger Drivers

Younger drivers are notorious for getting into accidents. Drivers aged 16-19 have the highest annual crash rate and that’s just behind the wheel of a car, not a heavy truck. In states where 18 year olds are allowed to drive 80,000 pound trucks, younger drivers are 4-6 times more likely then 21+ drivers to get in an accident. Safety experts worry this plan could lead to disaster on the road.

While younger drivers are more likely to get in an accident, they are already on road and driving big trucks. In most states current regulation only keeps them from crossing borders, not from driving. Proponents of the law argue that the regulation changes make sense. Right now teens can drive hundreds of miles around a state, but can’t drive 10 miles across a border.

The Benefits of Younger Drivers

There is a need for more drivers and allowing younger drivers to drive interstate could lower recruiting costs and increase the number of applicants available. With transportation costs on the rise, some hope that younger drivers could help slow the rising prices in transportation (contract costs increased 3-5% this year). The law would potentially give fresh out high school graduates more job opportunities.

The Proposed Regulation

The proposed regulation would allow the FMCSA to create a 6 year pilot program allowing younger drivers to cross state lines. The regulation would allow states to enter into agreements with each other allowing the younger drivers. States would be free to place limits on these drivers (like limiting types of cargo, limiting routes, creating hours they can drive, etc.).

The regulation has passed the Senate, but still needs approval from the House of Representatives.

What do you think about this proposed regulation? Should we allow more teen drivers on the road?

 

Hours-of-Service and Safety- Are the New Rules Working?

Those HOS (hours-of-service) rules can certainly get in the way, but the good news is, they seem to be working. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report examining the most recent round of HOS changes (implemented in 2013) and the FMCSA responded to the report and agreed to move forward with the changes.

Positive Impact of HOS Changes

The GAO examined data from the first 18 months of the new HOS regulations. Here’s what they found:

  • Reduction in Drivers Working 65+ Weekly Hours– Drivers in the sample were 24-29% less likely to work more than 65 hours per 8 day week. The number of drivers working over 65 hours was 12% before the rule and decreased to 6% afterwards.
  • Fewer Hours Worked Per Week– The GAO found that the drivers in their study worked about 1.1 to 2.5 fewer hours each 8 day week after the new HOS rule was implemented. This ranges from 2-4.8% fewer hours.
  • Fewer Restarts- Drivers in the sample took fewer restarts per 8 day week (approximately 6.1-6.5% fewer).
  • Less Fatigue– Drivers that comply with the HOS requirements should experience a lower peak fatigue level, especially in the earlier days in their work cycle.
  • No Increase in Early Morning Crashes– They also found no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. window, a worry that many critics of the regulation originally had.

There was little change in the number of crashes reported (and a possible decrease in the number of fatalities).

Other Ways to Stay Safe on the Road

Hours of Service rules are the law and they may help you to be safer on the road, but they aren’t the only way to increase your safety on the road. Here are a few other simple changes you can make based on recommendations and statistics from the GAO report.

Drive During the Day- The study found that drivers driving a nighttime schedule were on average much more fatigued than drivers working during daylight hours. To reduce fatigue, drive during the day if you can. If you must drive at night, here’s a great presentation from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) about drowsy driving.

Be Aware of Danger Times- The report found that crashes were more likely to occur when the roads were icy rather than dry, foggy rather than clear, and during dawn rather than daylight hours. Although you should be vigilant at all times, difficult road conditions do increase your risk of an accident. Be extra careful if you must drive during these times.

Don’t Speed– The most commonly cited reason for driver-caused crashes in 2012 was speeding. If you’re guilty of driving too fast, slow down.

It looks like the new HOS rules are here to stay. Have you noticed any changes (positive or negative) due to the changes in the HOS rules?