Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee, today issued the following statement after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the new Under 21-Commerical Driver Pilot Program. This program is modeled after the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE)-Safe Act (S.569), which Hoeven is cosponsoring in the Senate, and would allow drivers from the ages of 18 to 20 the opportunity to engage in interstate commerce with commercial motor vehicles (CMV) while taking part in the apprenticeship program. Currently, drivers under the age of 21 who hold a commercial driver’s license can only operate in the state in which they are licensed. 

“This program announced by the Agency today comes at a time when our nation is experiencing a critical shortage of truck drivers,” said Hoeven. “Safety continues to be a priority for our truck drivers, as well as everyone on the road, and this program provides the flexibility to examine our younger drivers as they gain important experience in an effort to further benefit road safety and the economy.”

Today’s action comes in addition to Hoeven’s efforts to address the unique challenges faced by agricultural haulers. To this end, FMCSA began the process last year to provide additional flexibility for the transportation of agricultural products under the 150 air mile agricultural exemption, which the agency is working to improve at the senator’s request.

Further, Hoeven is advancing his Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act, bipartisan legislation he reintroduced last year with Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to identify and remove obstacles to the safe, humane and market-efficient transportation of agricultural commodities, including livestock. Specifically, the Hoeven-Bennet bill would establish a working group at the U.S. Department of Transportation comprised of representatives from the transportation and agriculture industries, transportation safety representatives and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The working group would be required to consider the impact of existing Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rules on the commercial transport of livestock, insects and agricultural commodities and develop guidelines on reforming these rules. Within 120 days of receiving the working group’s report, the Transportation Secretary must propose regulatory changes to the HOS and ELD regulations, taking into account the group’s findings and recommendations.

The legislation would also delay enforcement of the ELD rule until the required reforms are formally proposed by the Transportation Secretary. The bill follows Hoeven’s successful efforts through the appropriations process to secure delays of the ELD rule in Fiscal Years (FY) 2018-2020.