High school petitioning FMCSA to allow 17-year-olds to obtain CLPs

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Trucking news and briefs for Friday, May 17, 2024:

High school CDL program petitions FMCSA to allow 17-year-olds to get CLPs

Connell High School in Connell, Washington, which offers a CDL program for students, has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an exemption beginning in September to allow students under the age of 18 who are enrolled in CHS’s CDL Program to obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit.

Students participating in the program would obtain a CLP at the age of 17 and receive 180 hours of classroom, field, and drive time instruction before obtaining a CDL at the age of 18.

According to CHS, the school district serves a primarily agricultural community across four small rural towns, with a decreasing workforce but with an increasing agriculture and transportation demand.

[Related: FMCSA easing fleet requirements for under-21 pilot program]

The high school said that it believes that granting the exemption will allow students to obtain a CDL at 18 and, upon graduation, “immediately enter the local workforce with stable, well-paying employment,” FMCSA’s Federal Register notice publishing Friday said.

CHS also believes that the exemption could have a positive impact on the local communities and alleviate the current commercial driver shortage.

The school said that a similar program exists in Maine and is offered by public institutions, allowing students as young as 16 to obtain a CLP.

“CHS believes its robust CDL preparatory program will ensure CHS achieves a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained by complying with the regulation,” FMCSA said of the petition. 

Comments on the request will be accepted for 30 days beginning Friday, May 17, at www.regulations.gov by searching Docket No. FMCSA-2024-0092.

[Related: Fleet's request to bring CLP holders into under-21 pilot denied]

Trucking conditions hit 6-month low in March

FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index fell in March to -7.25 – the most negative reading since September 2023. That’s down from February’s reading of -5.31.

FTR reported that highly unfavorable freight rates were the principal headwind for the trucking industry in March as the market remained soft for trucking companies. Financing costs also were a significant negative factor in the TCI, while other contributors to the index were generally stable.

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“Rates had been a slightly less negative factor for carriers recently, so March might prove to be an outlier in what we expect will be a gradually improving environment for trucking companies,” said Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking. “However, we are not forecasting that either freight rates or overall market conditions will be favorable for carriers until early next year. Freight volume improvement and capacity rightsizing are progressing only incrementally, and we do not see anything on the horizon that clearly will change those dynamics.”

Vise noted that FTR is watching to cost of commercial auto insurance, which saw increases in premiums over the past year after some stability in years prior. “Continued increases might become a catalyst for accelerated carrier failures, which could yield a tighter market a bit earlier than we are forecasting,” he said.

Kenworth sets production schedule for Cummins X15N-equipped trucks

Kenworth will begin production of Kenworth T680 and T880 models specified with the new Cummins X15N natural gas engine in the third quarter of 2024, the company announced this week.

The Cummins X15N, powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) or Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), is the industry’s first 15-liter natural gas engine that delivers diesel-like power, range, and performance, making it appealing for short, regional, and long-haul operations. The X15N produces between 400-500 hp with up to 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque and is compatible with Eaton Cummins Endurant and Allison Transmissions. 

Kenworth also noted the Cummins X15N meets stringent EPA emission requirements and CARB 2024 Low NOx standards and features up to a 10% improvement in fuel economy over Cummins’ 12-liter natural gas engine with similar rating and duty cycle.

Kenworth is the first major truck manufacturer to offer an engine that meets CARB’s NOx emission standards, the company said. 

“We’re thrilled to soon begin production of Kenworth trucks with the Cummins X15N natural gas engine,” said Kevin Haygood, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. “This new engine offering will be a great alternative solution for Kenworth customers seeking to reduce emissions in applications that require the power and performance they’re accustomed to with diesel engines.” 

“We’re pleased to partner with Kenworth and Paccar to deliver the industry’s first trucks with this new 15-liter natural gas engine,” added José Samperio, Cummins vice president and general manager for North America. “The X15N delivers the performance, durability, and power required in a variety of heavy-duty and vocational applications and is an excellent alternative for fleets looking to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.”

With the Cummins X15N, like with all natural gas-powered Kenworth trucks, customers can select factory frame drilling options for back of cab Cummins Clean Fuel Technologies or Hexagon Agility CNG/RNG fuel systems. Additional non-factory fuel systems are available to ensure flexibility for any application or configuration of the natural gas fuel system, Kenworth said, including rail mounted and body mounted fuel storage.

Back of cab natural gas fuel delivery systems can deliver up to a 175-diesel gallon equivalent (DGE), making the X15N an efficient diesel alternative for customers that require longer range and power from their engine, the company said.

[Related: Cummins set to debut 15-liter natural gas engine]