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What You Need to Know About the U21 Pilot Program for Military Applicants

The US trucking industry is experiencing a driver shortage of incredible proportions. Recent reports say there are around 60,000 openings for CDL drivers, but finding drivers to fill these openings is easier said than done.

Luckily, many federal and nonprofit organizations are making filling this void part of their ongoing strategy. The trucking industry is an extremely critical part of the US supply chain, and filling these openings is a key step in ensuring the logistic operations in the country run smoothly.

A press release from the US Department of Transportation announced it is finally beginning the program (announced in mid 2018) that aims to help address this void while providing veterans with a strong transition out of the military. The Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program gives 18-20 year-old drivers the chance to get their CDL driver's license if they have:

  • Heavy-vehicle driving experience while in service
  • A designated MOS or job rating
  • An offer from a participating carrier

One of the main purposes of this program is for the FMCSA to study the safety records of program participants and compare these metrics to drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 who have received comparable training and experience. This will help federal lawmakers determine long-term recommendations about CDL driver criteria. As drivers age out of the pilot program, they will be replaced with new participants.

What Driver Recruiters Need to Know About the U21 Pilot Program

Applications are now being accepted for the pilot program, and FMCSA is hoping to hire hundreds of veteran drivers for the study. Carriers can actively recruit drivers for both the pilot program group (between the ages of 18 and 20) and for the control group (between the ages of 21 and 24). This is a critical piece of legislation for CDL driver recruiters – and the industry in general – because of the ongoing conversation about hiring younger drivers. While Gen Z definitely represents an untapped audience with great potential, there is also an ongoing debate about whether or not hiring younger drivers is unsafe for the trucking industry in general.

When it comes to making these recruiting decisions and engaging with younger drivers, CDL recruiters should make sure training and safety are a top priority. Even through a requirement for this military pilot program is that drivers must have previous experience with heavy vehicles and extensive safety training, this is no place to let safety protocols fall by the wayside. Luckily, modern technical advancements in CDL driver recruiting is bringing safety and compliance to the forefront of the recruiting conversation. From monitoring truck speeds to hours of service, there are plenty of ways carriers can track younger driver safety alongside the study by FMCSA.

In the long run, this program should be a shining example of growth and development in the CDL industry. The Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program has the potential to provide hundreds of jobs to returning veterans and reserves while also fulfilling a dire need this country has for CDL drivers. If successful, the FMCSA will use the data to determine whether or not they should expand the under 21 concept to civilians (aka reduce the minimum age requirement from 21 to 18).

You can learn more about the FMCSA Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program and how it stands to impact your recruiting efforts by reaching out to one of our team members here.


Stay up to date on CDL trucking trends! Be sure to check out the DriverReach blog or follow us on LinkedIn for other relevant articles and head over to our webinars page for an up-to-date list of upcoming events and on-demand recordings.

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