DOT Must Take Care on CGDL Program, Says NAII

The concept of a graduated commercial drivers license (GCDL) program has the potential to enhance highway safety, but without a cost-benefit analysis and age limits for young drivers, insurers suggest the program could be headed down the wrong road.

Graduated drivers license (GDL) programs, which have existed for the past 10 years for teen drivers, initiate specific steps in state-run programs with requirements that must be met by the youthful driver before a valid driver’s license can be obtained.

The Des Plaines, Ill.-based National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII) was a leader in promoting state legislation for successful GDL programs for teens. Such laws have reduced accidents and fatalities in states around the country. NAII, which has 715 member companies, recently submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation on a commercial version of the GDL program.

“Although this concept could be a potential safety tool for new commercial drivers, NAII members would like to see statistics comparing accident frequency of new commercial drivers license holders with those of more experienced drivers before any program is implemented, along with a thorough cost-benefit analysis,” said David M. Golden, NAII’s commercial lines director.

“A graduated commercial drivers license program also could have a significant economic impact on the trucking industry. We are disappointed that the request for comments from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) did not include at least a preliminary cost-benefit
analysis or accident statistics on new commercial drivers.”

In addition, the NAII said that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provided substantial research showing significantly higher accident risk for young commercial drivers in its 2001 comments on the younger commercial driver pilot proposal, and is urging that any GCDL proposal to establish a 21-year-old minimum age requirement.

“Studies done by IIHS and others have consistently shown that drivers under 21 years of age have significantly higher accident rates, “Golden said. “At 18 drivers are still building basic skills needed to safely drive cars. We have seen nothing to indicate that the extra skills needed to safely operate large commercial vehicles could be mastered at age 18. If additional information becomes available we will be happy to re-evaluate our position.”

Final comments regarding the graduated commercial drivers license concept were due May 27 to the Transportation Department.