In The News

Driver Apprenticeship Program

By Brandon Scott - Staff Writer
Posted Jul 27th 2022 8:00AM

Recently, some truck insurance and safety groups have begun questioning the merits of the federal under-21 commercial driver apprenticeship program. However, certain factions of the trucking industry are continuing to back the pilot program.

The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Program

As it’s currently devised, the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program would allow drivers between the ages of 18-20 years to operate a commercial vehicle in trucking interstate commerce while the government collects safety data on its impact. Most states currently allow drivers the age of 21 to obtain a commercial driver’s license and operate heavy-duty vehicles within their state of residence. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) does not permit those same drivers to cross state lines. 

American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports the pilot program, aimed at getting more young people to consider a career in trucking, which will help with the infusion of new blood into the commercial driving industry.

Safety is Always a Concern

The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) is calling for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to terminate the pilot program before it even begins. The program, as it’s currently planned out, requires those younger drivers to operate in trucks with automated manual transmissions, active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing cameras, and a governed speed of 65 miles per hour.

ATA backed the safety and technology requirements for drivers participating in the program, which would initially be limited to 3,000 commercially licensed individuals. However, the TSC is expressing concern that the pilot program is only requiring this safety technology for a minimum 280 hours of probationary driving experience. 

The TSC also points out that these limited safety technology requirements are simply not enough, calling for the requirement of inward-facing cameras as well. This proposed requirement supposes that utilizing a rear-facing camera will provide additional targeted support and accountability to help young drivers overcome the temptation to use mobile devices while driving. This is naturally a prime concern for anyone on the road.

Driven By Data

ATA argues that comparisons should not be made between what is a typical teen driver and those who are seeking a career in trucking. However, Load One CEO, John Elliott has stated on multiple occasions that, “the federal government feels it’s perfectly fine to put an 18-year-old behind the controls of multi-million-dollar military equipment yet doesn’t want to allow that same person to drive from one state to another.”

The current proposal, as it stands, requires data on any safety monitoring and/or other incidents involving the drivers within the apprenticeship program. Such gathered information will include crash, inspection, citation, and safety event data (those recorded by installed safety and advanced driver assistance systems). Plus, video recordings and exposure data (record of duty status logs, on-duty and drive time). Fleets will also be asked to report any additional or remedial training afforded to the participating drivers. All data will be submitted monthly by the participating motor carriers.

Let’s Hear from You

Everyone is going to have their thoughts and opinions on allowing younger commercial drivers to enter the truck driving workforce, so let’s get your input! Feel free to provide your feedback on the Driver Apprenticeship Program by clicking this link. Thank you for your participation.