FMCSA proposes pilot program to allow drivers under 21 to operate CMVs interstate

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Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on a proposed pilot program that would allow drivers ages 18 to 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles interstate.

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia permit drivers as young as 18 to obtain a commercial driver’s license for intrastate travel, with Hawaii the lone exception.

The pilot program would establish an apprenticeship program for CDL holders younger than 21, requiring apprentices to complete two probationary periods totaling 400 hours. Additionally, 19- and 20-year-old drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for at least one year and 25,000 miles are eligible to participate. According to FMCSA, the program would prohibit drivers from hauling passengers and hazardous materials or operating special configuration vehicles, including cargo tanks.

“This action will allow the agency to carefully examine the safety, feasibility and possible economic benefits of allowing 18- to 20-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce,” FMCSA acting administrator Wiley Deck said in a Sept. 4 press release. “Safety is always FMCSA’s top priority, so we encourage drivers, motor carriers and interested citizens to review this proposed new pilot program and share their thoughts and opinions.”

In February, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Transportation and Safety Subcommittee conducted a hearing to explore safety concerns regarding younger CMV drivers, among other industry issues.

FMCSA in May 2019 requested public comment on a proposal to allow 18- to 20-year-olds to operate CMVs in interstate commerce. According to the agency, 1,118 comments were received, with 504 favoring the proposal, 486 in opposition, and various other comments providing “conditional support” or offering additional suggestions.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear was among the proposal’s early supporters.

“This is a significant step toward improving safety on our nation’s roads, setting a standard for these drivers that is well beyond what 49 states currently require,” Spear said in a Sept. 4 press release. “This is an amazing block of talent with unlimited potential. If our freedom can be defended from tyranny around the world by our men and women in uniform, many well below the age of 21, then it’s quite clear that we can train that same group how to safely and responsibly cross state lines in a commercial vehicle.”

ATA Chairman Randy Guillot suggests in the release that the proposal could offer a gateway to connect with potential new drivers, putting the industry “in a better position to bring in a new generation of valuable talent.”

Several groups – including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Governors Highway Safety Association, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – are expressing opposition to the proposed program.

In an article published Sept. 4 in OOIDA’s Land Line magazine, OOIDA Director of Federal Affairs Jay Grimes asserts that the program “will no doubt lead to more crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks,” citing longstanding data showing higher incident rates among 18- to 20-year-old drivers.

“OOIDA also fears that younger drivers will be subject to inadequate working conditions and be used to maintain a cheap labor supply that will only result in higher driver turnover rates rather than long-term careers in the industry,” Grimes said. “We believe the agency should be working to reverse the increasing trend of crashes and promoting policies that help make trucking a rewarding, sustainable profession. This pilot program accomplishes neither of those objectives.”

Comments on the program are due by Nov. 9.


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Focus on individual workers rather than generational stereotypes, management experts say

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Washington — Instead of relying on generational labels such as “millennial” and “baby boomer” to help inform workforce management decisions – including those related to safety and communication – employers and managers should focus on workers’ individual situations and needs, concludes a recently published report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

A committee of experts in management, industrial and organizational psychology, sociology, economics, adult development and learning sciences, and other disciplines reviewed hundreds of sources of scientific literature on generations in the workforce, as well as work and human capital. They determined that although the term “generation” often identifies a group of people by their birth years, age range doesn’t mean each generation has a wide range of commonalities.

“Generational categories ignore significant differences that result from characteristics like gender, race/ethnicity, education, and occupation,” Nancy Tippins, chair of the committee and principal at The Nancy T. Tippins Group, told Safety+Health. “When an organization assumes generational categories are legitimate, they ignore the needs of individuals within the group. From a safety perspective, the danger in generational categories lies in treating everyone the same despite their different situations and needs.”

For example, an offshore oil rig worker using heavy equipment and an accountant in an office setting at the same company face much different safety challenges despite being born the same year. “Consequently, the training needed by each is likely going to be quite different for these two groups if it is to be effective and useful,” Tippins said.

When it comes to communicating safety messages, a process unique to the individual organization will likely be most effective, Tippins said. To start, identify the organization’s goals, the message to be shared and the needs/capabilities of workers to be trained. From there, the effectiveness of training should be monitored regularly and revisited based on each employee’s needs.

“Assuming everyone in a generational category has the same needs and expectations and disregarding differences and contextual factors will limit the effectiveness of training,” Tippins said.

Study explores which generation of workers is most likely to consider suicide

Dallas — Millennial workers are more likely to contemplate suicide than any other age group – including up to five times more so than baby boomers – results of a recent analysis indicate.

Researchers at Catapult Health, a national preventive health care provider, looked at more than 157,000 patient records, including data from checkups conducted by the company at workplaces across 44 states.

They found that, of the patients younger than 30, 2.3 per 1,000 reported not only considering suicide, but also having a plan to carry it out. For workers 60 and older, that rate was 0.4 per 1,000 and, across all age groups, the average was 0.86.

“The numbers may seem small,” Catapult CEO David Michel said in a May 1 press release, “but if your company has 5,000 employees, that means that at any given moment four of them are probably seriously considering suicide, and the number is higher if you employ more younger workers.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among millennials and the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

In addition, workers younger than 30 are significantly more likely to experience depression than older employees, Catapult states.

“It is imperative that employers help their employees recognize depression and provide the resources to overcome it,” Michel said in the release.