Alabama lowers minimum age for in-state commercial truck drivers

Starting Feb. 7, 2020, 18-year-olds in Alabama could train for a career as a tractor-trailer driver, under one of the state’s newest laws.

Act No. 2019 – 249 by Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville, and Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, allows those between age 18 and 21 to seek a Class A commercial driver’s license to operate tractor-trailer or tank vehicles inside the state lines if the loads are not hazardous or oversized.

The new drivers must meet training and testing guidelines set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Under previous state law, drivers had to wait until they were 21 in Alabama to seek such a license. Alabama is now the 49th state to allow 18-year-olds to have commercial driver’s licenses restricted for use within the state.

Many potential truck drivers in Alabama were being lost to other industries by the time they reached the age of 21, contended a coalition of business groups that supported this legislation, including the Alabama Retail Association. This new law allows Alabama retailers that rely on trucks to move goods to better compete with surrounding states that do not have the same age restrictions.

Meanwhile, pending federal legislation and a pilot program announced on the Federal Register would open interstate commercial driving to younger drivers. Nationwide, interstate, or cross-country, commercial driver’s licenses are only available to those 21 or older.

The DRIVE-Safe Act –  HR1374S569 –  would create an apprenticeship program for under-21 drivers to be able to drive commercial vehicles across state lines. Alabama U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, Mo Brooks and Bradley Byrne are co-sponsors of the House bill, which has been assigned to the Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. U.S. Sen. Doug Jones is a Senate sponsor. The U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety conducted a hearing on the proposed legislation Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.

On May 15, 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a notice on the Federal Register about a pilot program that would allow non-military 18- to 20-year-olds to drive commercial vehicles engaged in interstate commerce.

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Originally posted 10:42 p.m. May 23
Updated Feb. 5, 2020