Trucker Shortage? Let’s Try Putting 17 Year Olds Behind the Wheel

17 year old truck driver behind the wheel of a semi truck

There is an eastern Washington high school trying something new to help its students get jobs.

They want 17 year old truck drivers!

Connell High School (CHS) wants the rules changed, so that 17-year-olds in its truck driving program can get a learner’s permit, a CDLP. 

This would let them start working as truck drivers right after they graduate from high school. 

They feel this plan could help students get decent jobs, right out of high school.

17 year old truck driver behind the wheel of a semi truck

The Current Rules

Right now, federal regulations and Washington state law require you to be at least 18 years old to get a learner’s permit (CDLP) to drive a truck.

This rule makes it hard for high school students to start truck driving right after they finish school.

The Exemption Request

This Washington high school wants to let 17-year-olds get a learner’s permit.

The students would get 180 hours of training, including classroom lessons, fieldwork, and driving practice.

When they turn 18 years of age, they could get a full truck driving license and start working right away.

The Rationale: Why This Matters

Immediate Job Opportunities

“CHS believes that granting the exemption will allow students to obtain a CDL at 18 years of age and, upon graduation from CHS, immediately enter the local workforce with stable, well-paying employment,” FMCSA’s notice states.

This plan is especially for minority and disadvantaged students, giving them a good career path right out of high school.

An Attempt To Solve the ‘So-Called’ Driver Shortage

There aren’t enough truck drivers right now. We all know that.

Letting younger drivers start sooner could help fix this problem.

CHS officials think this plan could help local communities and the economy.

However, some organizations have refuted the claim of a driver shortage and say this proposal is ludicrous.

The Training Program: Preparing the Next Generation

Comprehensive Curriculum

The training program at CHS is tough and thorough. Students would get 180 hours of training, which includes:

  • Classroom Instruction: Learning the basics of truck driving, safety rules, and federal laws.
  • Fieldwork: Practicing truck driving skills in a controlled setting.
  • Drive Time: Real-world driving practice with experienced instructors.

Safety First

It is noted that safety is very important in this program. 

The training proposal wants to be sure students are ready to be responsible drivers.

By the time they get their full license, they will know a lot about truck driving, so the authorities say.

Young 17 year old truck driver standing in from of a big rig truck

Industry Reactions: Mixed Opinions

Support from Local Communities

Local communities and businesses seem to like the idea.

They see the benefits of having well-trained young truck drivers. 

Concerns from Industry Experts

But not everyone agrees.

Some experts worry that 18-year-olds might not be ready for long-haul trucking.

There are also questions about insurance for younger drivers, which could be a problem.

The Bigger Picture: A Step Towards Change

A Potential Model for Other Schools

If this plan works, other high schools may adapt to the program.

Adding truck driving training to high school programs can give students valuable skills and help with the driver shortage.

The Role of Federal Regulations

This plan wants federal rules changed to meet new needs….. the driver shortage.

They feel that as the trucking industry changes, the rules should too.

This exemption request could lead to more flexible rules in the future.

Truck Driver Standing Beside Blue Peterbilt


Let’s Talk About Reality of the Situation

  1. While this Washington High School certainly have the right idea, to employ young people and give them life skills, we’re of the opinion that 17 and 18 year olds, simply don’t have the maturity it takes for a truck driving job. 


  1. The second problem, we have with this idea, is that there really ISN’T a shortage of truck drivers. There’s a shortage of truck drivers who will work for less than adequate wages and lousy working conditions. That’s a fact. The trucking industry is running out of groups willing to do a dangerous job, that’s highly stressful, a tough life style for not a lot of money. That’s the REAL reason to bring in this younger population into the formula. 

The FMCSA will be reviewing this request. 

We can only hope the FMCSA will do the right thing and do not give an allowance to this program. 

Note that the FMCSA’s main agenda is to focus on safety, although many decisions over the past number of years don’t exactly seem to focus on safety, but on profitability. 

Yes this school has the right idea, but help these young people get a career in plumbing, mechanics or carpentry, something safe, not behind the wheel of a semi truck, 80,000 lb @ 60 mph, rolling down the interstate, with a 17 year old behind the wheel. 

Our interstates are already dangerous grounds. 

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