Do You Have to Be 21 to Be a Truck Driver?

truck driving down road with green landscape

Truck driving is a vital industry for transporting goods and materials nationwide. It is a profession in high demand at the moment and requires specialized skills and training. However, it is subject to strict regulations to ensure the safety of the driver, cargo, and the public. One common question for people considering a career in truck driving is, “do you have to be 21 to be a truck driver?” The answer isn’t black and white, so keep reading to learn the rules and regulations that govern truck driving in the U.S. 

New Truck Driver Apprentice Program

While traditionally, drivers had to be over the age of 21 to become truck drivers, an infrastructure bill introduced at the end of 2022, the Truck Action Plan, changed that. The plan addresses the constraints in trucking, including the truck driver demand that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, and outdated rules of the road. Additionally, the plan has benchmarks to bring more female drivers into the workforce and a pilot project allowing truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to drive interstate. 

The new Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program will allow people at least 18 years old who have a state-issued commercial driver’s license and a clean record to get behind the wheel of interstate trucks under the supervision of an experienced drive. This program was proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in September 2020 but wasn’t implemented at the time, but was added when the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law in November 2022. 

The FMCSA will issue a specific exemption to the normal age restrictions for young drivers entering the program. All trucks in the program are required to have certain safety technologies including emergency braking, forward-facing video cameras, and a top speed that is automatically limited to 65 mph. Additionally, the apprentice drivers are not allowed to drive trucks that have more than one trailer or have any hazardous materials. 

For those interested in being the supervising driver, they must be at least 26 years old with at least five years of semi truck driving experience. Supervising drivers must also have two years of incident-free driving experience, including no crashes or tickets, to be considered for the position. 

Traditional Truck Driving Requirements

For truck drivers who do not want to be in the pilot program, they must meet the following requirements. 

Be at Least 18 Years Old

To be a truck driver, you must be at least 18 years old. This is the minimum age requirement across states, and is enforced by the FMCSA. In order to drive a commercial vehicle interstate, you must be 21 years old or older. 

To apply for a CDL, you must have a valid driver’s license and a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) for 14 days prior to taking the exam, and also provide proof of residency, proof of citizenship, and proof of insurance. Each state may have additional documentation requirements, and individuals from out of state may need additional documentation. Additionally, some companies may have a minimum age requirement of 21. To receive a Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement, you must also undergo a federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) threat assessment. All of these requirements must be passed in order to get your CDL license, and without it, you will not be allowed to drive a truck.

Have a Valid Driver’s License

To obtain a CDL to drive a truck, you must have a valid non-commercial driver’s license and have held it for at least two years. 

In addition, you must pass a physical exam from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and a criminal and driving background check. Finally, you must be able to read, speak, and understand English, and pass both written and practical driving tests.

Pass a DOT Medical Exam

The exam is conducted by a medical examiner who is certified by the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. During the exam, the examiner will check your eyesight, hearing, blood pressure, and general physical health. 

Pass a Criminal Background check

In order to pass a criminal background check and be a truck driver as well as a drug test. 

Complete ELDT Training

Before a student can take their skills tests they must complete ELDT. Unlike many truck driving schools, TDI offers ELDT on-site. TDI includes this training in every student’s three-week course.

Pass a CDL skills test

To pass a CDL skills test and get your CDL license, you will need to pass the written exams, the hands-on skills test, and the road test. The written test will cover various aspects of truck driving rules and regulations while on the road. The hands-on skills test and road test will test drivers on basic control skills such as straight line backing, parallel parking, and alley docking. You will be scored for the number of times you cross or touch a boundary line or cone, how often you pull up, and your final position. 

Once you have passed all the tests and criteria, you will be granted your CDL license and be able to drive a truck. 

Answering the Question: Do You Have to Be 21 to Be a Truck Driver

As you can see, there are ways to be a truck driver before the age of 21. However, if you want to drive independently and across state, you will need to be 21. For those interested in getting a new career on the road straight out of high school, consider a career in truck driving. 

At Truck Driver Institute, you can get your CDL in as little as three weeks and start your truck driving career. With the demand for truck drivers remaining high, you will enter a field where you can get a job upon graduation with a starting salary of $71,000. 

To learn more about our CDL training, visit our website

Get Started

Get your Class A CDL in our friendly, supportive CDL training program. TRAIN with experienced instructors – multiple good-paying, secure job choices with benefits available for eligible graduates. EARN $700 – $1000+ / week to start as a truck driver. Get started today by filling out the form below. We look forward to hearing from you!