Currently, truck drivers that want to drive commercial trucks across states boundaries in the United States must be 21-years-old. Drivers aged 18-20 must restrict themselves to intrastate business. But this may be changing soon.
After extensive lobbying from trucking companies to resolve an alleged “truck driver shortage,” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been considering reducing the age of interstate travel for a few years.
The new long-debated infrastructure bill may change this. Included in the bill is a new rule that would change the legal interstate commercial driving age to 18 years old.
If the bill is passed, here’s what 18-year-old drivers should know:
18-year-olds won’t be allowed to immediately hop behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer and drive across state lines though. 18-year-old drivers will be required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and complete two probationary apprenticeships (120-hours and 280-hours, respectively) set up by their long-haul employer.
19-20 year-old drivers are provided the same option or they can provide proof of a CDL and driving record of at least one year and 25,000 miles.
The Difference Between Local/Regional and Long-Haul
Whether you are an 18-year-old considering driving as a career or a young driver in the 18-20 age bracket, it’s important to recognize that long-haul driving is quite different from local and regional driving.
Local and regional truck driving is similar to a “normal job.” You will usually get home every night to see your family. You eat, sleep, and live at home.
Long-haul driving is more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. Long-haul (or over-the-road/OTR) driving means traveling across the expansive United States and living out of your truck. Drivers are gone for weeks at a time, only returning home for a weekend before taking off again.
Long-haul drivers sleep in the cab or sleeper bunk of their truck. They shower and eat at truck stops. OTR drivers must be constantly aware of their Hours of Service (HOS) and how long they can drive before pulling off to park and sleep. This means careful route planning is required. While nobody is constantly over your shoulder supervising your every action, driving long-haul requires a diligent work ethic and responsibility. Spending long periods of time inside the truck can also be isolating for many drivers.
OTR driving often pays better than local, and it’s a rewarding career for many. But it’s not for everyone. If you are interested in beginning a career as a truck driver, check out the Class A Drivers “Become a Truck Driver” guide for more information.