Will Truck Accidents Increase With Drivers Under Age 21?

There is a push to reduce the minimum age from 21 to 18 to allow younger drivers to transport a tractor tailor across state lines.  This is in response to an existing lack of over-the-road big rig drivers plus an increasing demand for trucking services. Many different groups disagree with this proposal and present some convincing arguments in opposition. Experienced tractor trailer drivers as well as lawmakers, safety advocates, and even some truck accident attorneys argue that reducing the minimum age to 18 only invites more truck accidents and will put everyone on the road in greater danger.

Reducing the Minimum Truck Driving Age

The current minimum age in some states to obtain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) to drive a commercial truck within state boundaries is 18 years of age. The minimum age for commercial truck drivers to cross state lines is 21. Because a younger driver can drive as many or more miles in a day as any other truck driver within state lines, there is a proposal to decrease the minimum age requirement nationwide.  Such a change would allow 18-year-old commercial truck drivers to cross state lines just like any other big rig driver.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) and some members of Congress support this proposal because it could satisfy the need for more commercial truck drivers.  According to the proposal, drivers under the age of 21 could not drive oversize loads or haul hazardous waste.

Minimum Commercial Driving Age Controversy

ATA presented the proposal to Congress for lower minimum driver ages.  At the same time, truck drivers and various highway safety organizations such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety as well as groups such as Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) oppose the proposal, reportedly for good reason.

According to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, younger drivers up to the age of 20 represent about 6 percent of the national driving population and are responsible for 19 percent of accidents that result in a fatality.1 Furthermore, the CDC reports that males age 16-19 had a death rate nearly twice as high as females in teen driver crashes resulting in fatalities.2 This is particularly concerning because many younger male drivers find commercial truck driving very appealing.

Those opposed to the above proposal point to other notable crash statistics and suggest that the driving age for commercial truck drivers be increased to 21, with no exceptions. Older, experienced professional truck drivers believe this is an unnecessary action.  In their opinion, a company could better keep older, veteran drivers with better driving conditions and increased pay. It is certainly appealing to trucking companies to have younger drivers that are paid less; however, they also have less commercial truck driving experience. Young drivers may face a greater risk of being involved in a truck accident, putting themselves and everyone else on the highways in danger.

The trucking industry in America faces other controversial trucking safety topics and is now divided on yet one more issue over the national age for interstate truck drivers. Experts in the field, including some truck accident attorneys, assert that such a decision could temporarily increase driver numbers yet also drastically increase the risk of these younger, inexperienced drivers causing more truck accidents. Many truck accident attorneys already see a high number of cases involving commercial truck accidents and are paying close attention to this issue.  They encourage Congress to carefully consider the proposal and its potentially deadly effects!

1NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts: Fatal Crashes Involving Young Drivers, November 2009

2CDC, Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety, Report on Teen Drivers, September 9, 2015


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