How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive Across State Lines?

A career in commercial trucking can provide numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth for individuals, including those who start their careers as teen drivers. From getting a learner’s permit to joining a pilot program and undergoing driver training, a teen driver can drive interstate as long as they meet the age requirements and hold the necessary licenses and qualifications. 

Minimum Age Requirements to Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles

Aspiring truck drivers can jumpstart their career through various programs and training

To drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce (across state lines), a driver must be at least 21 years old due to federal regulations. This age requirement is set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). While the age requirement for interstate commerce is 21 years old, some states allow individuals as young as 18 to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate commercial vehicles within that state’s borders. This provides opportunities for younger drivers to engage in intrastate commerce.

Regardless of age, aspiring commercial truck drivers need to obtain a CDL. The CDL process typically involves meeting educational requirements, completing a training program, and passing written and skills tests. The age requirements to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the United States are as follows:

Intrastate Commerce (Within One State):

  • Many states allow individuals as young as 18 to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate commercial vehicles within that state’s borders.
  • Some states, however, may have higher age requirements.

Interstate Commerce (Across State Lines):

  • To operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce (across state lines), the driver must be at least 21 years old.
  • This applies to drivers of large trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more, or vehicles designed to transport hazardous materials that require placarding.

It’s crucial to note that these requirements are set by federal regulations administered by the FMCSA. Additionally, obtaining a CDL involves meeting specific driver education courses, training, and testing criteria.

It’s advisable to check with the relevant state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or licensing agency for the most current and accurate information regarding age requirements and other regulations related to commercial driving.

Government Programs for Young Drivers

Young drivers need to undergo proper driver education and training from reputable truck driving schools. These programs provide the necessary skills and knowledge to become a licensed driver and learn how to operate commercial vehicles safely and comply with regulations.

Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP)

In response to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the FMCSA introduced SDAP, an apprenticeship pilot program intended to enable drivers aged 18 to 20, possessing an intrastate commercial driver’s license, to engage in interstate commerce under precise conditions.  

Check local state laws and regulations for age requirements

The proposed pilot program was announced in January 2022. This three-year initiative is meant to help individuals aged 18, 19, and 20 to explore interstate trucking careers. Moreover, it aims to assist motor carriers in recruiting and training new drivers through the implementation of the apprenticeship pilot program.

Under 21 Military CDL Pilot Program 

This pilot program explores the practicalities, advantages, and safety implications of granting individuals under the age of 21 the ability to operate CMVs in other states. This program is part of the FMCSA’s commitment to gathering data and scrutinizing the safety capabilities of younger drivers who have experience driving heavy vehicles from their time in the military. The pilot program also gives them the opportunity to drive CMVs for interstate commerce. Its main objective was to determine whether the safety performance of younger drivers with military training could rival or surpass that of their counterparts aged 21 and older. This pioneering military CDL initiative extends an exemption from the standard prerequisite that all commercial driver’s license holders must be 21 years old, heralding a new frontier of military CDL opportunities for budding young truckers in the country.

However, eligibility for this pilot program hinges on meeting a specific set of criteria:

  • Being between the ages of 18, 19, or 20 at the time of approval for participation in the pilot program; 
  • Possessing certification (or equivalent training and experience) in operating heavy vehicles acquired during military service;
  • Willingness to release specific information to the FMCSA, enabling them to assess eligibility for the program;
  • Fulfilling all the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) requirements (excluding age) for operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce;
  • Acknowledging that participants in the program are restricted from transporting passengers or hazardous materials.

 

Upon reaching the age of 21, participants will be disengaged from the initiative but will still be eligible to continue operating in an interstate capacity for their current motor carrier or explore opportunities with another company.

Getting a Driver’s License and Other Motor Carrier Requirements

There are several steps involved in the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for teen drivers interested in interstate commerce:

 

Keep in mind that regulations can change, so it’s crucial to verify the most current requirements from the relevant authorities, such as FMCSA and the DMV.

Certain programs help young driver jumstart their trucking career

Other Requirements and Information

  • Insurance Considerations: Some commercial trucking companies may have age-related restrictions or higher insurance costs for younger drivers. Young drivers can explore opportunities with motor carriers that are open to hiring drivers of a certain age.
  • Consider Local Opportunities: Young drivers who want to drive intrastate may want to join an apprenticeship program or find opportunities in local or regional trucking where they can operate within state borders and gain valuable experience before turning 21. 
  • Safety and Responsibility: Commercial trucking is a profession that demands a high level of safety and responsibility. Accident prevention is a top priority in the industry, and young drivers must demonstrate a commitment to adhering to highway safety regulations and maintaining a clean driving record.

From Passenger Seat to Experienced Driver

Commercial trucking offers many opportunities for teen drivers who want to learn safe driving and see different parts of the country through interstate commerce. Knowing the value of comprehensive insurance early on in your career is one of the keys to success. 

CTI offers a diverse range of policies for commercial truckers. Get a truck insurance quote from our TRS-certified agents today. We work with over 30 carriers to help you secure the best deals for commercial trucking insurance.