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Federal Government Moves Forward with Teen Truck Driving Pilot Program

Apprenticeship Pilot Program Allows Teens to Drive Semi Trucks

Faced with a truck driver shortage in the United States, the federal government gives a pilot program the green light to let teens drive large commercial trucks from state to state. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) made the announcement earlier this month.

Currently, young drivers ages 18 to 20 in most states can drive semi-trucks within their own state, but the new Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program will allow them to drive big rigs outside their home state.

The program will run up to three years and train as many as 3,000 young truckers. Semi-trucks used in this program will have a forward-facing video camera, an electronic braking crash mitigation system, and their speeds must not exceed 65 mph.

How Does the Apprenticeship Pilot Program Work?

Through the program, drivers 18 to 20 years old must complete 400 probationary hours of training with an experienced truck driver. They can drive on their own after the probation period, but their performance will constantly be monitored until they turn 21. Their driving record will also be thoroughly reviewed before they can participate in the program.

The apprenticeship pilot program is part of President Biden’s infrastructure package, an attempt to ease the nation’s truck driver shortage.

Trade Groups Support the Pilot Program

Trade groups like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) approve of the program and say it would provide a much-needed boost for the trucking industry.

The group estimates a national shortage of more than 80,000 truck drivers, a number that has grown worse during the pandemic. According to an analysis by the ATA, the number of truck drivers in the U.S. dropped 7 percent from 2019 to 2020.

Auto Safety Advocate Groups are Concerned with the New Program

While the American Trucking Associations support the program, other groups like the Truck Safety Coalition are not onboard. They say the program contradicts data that shows younger drivers cause more traffic accidents than older drivers. They say it is not wise to let inexperienced young drivers handle large semi-trucks weighing 80,000 pounds. They believe putting young drivers behind the wheel of a large truck can increase the possibility of mass casualty accidents.
Advocate groups like Highway and Auto Safety say the program is ill-advised. They say the issue is not so much a truck driver shortage but more of a truck driver retention. They believe lowering the age limit for truck drivers fails to address the longstanding aspect of the trade that causes a high truck driver turnover, like exhausting work schedules and poor safety technology in trucks.

What’s Next for the Pilot Program?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is in charge of starting the teen truck driving pilot program within 60 days after the measure was signed into law on November 15, 2021. The start date for the pilot program has not been announced yet.

Watch YouTube Video: Semi-truck Driving Apprenticeship Pilot Program Moving Forward for 18-20-Year-Olds. The video from Scripps National News below discusses the pilot program and safety concerns for young truck drivers.

Contact Our Truck Accident Attorneys in Oakley, CA

An accident with a large commercial truck can cause devastating, life-altering injuries. Call our experienced Oakley truck accident lawyers for free and friendly legal advice if you or a family member was severely hurt in a trucking crash. We can be reached at (925) 428-5220 or (800) 404-5400 or through our online contact form.

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Photo by Darwis Alwan from Pexels

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