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Photo credit: Zetong Li / Unspalsh
Photo credit: Zetong Li / Unspalsh

Congress moves forward with teen truck driver apprenticeships

A proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the expansion of its youth driver apprenticeships.

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Congress has given the greenlight to move forward with teen truck driver apprenticeships to relieve supply-chain shortages, and will be issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

FMCSA released additional details of their apprenticeship program on Thursday that was proposed to Congress in December 2021, and effectively signed by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15 as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

“The Department of Transportation and Labor are accelerating the expansion of Registered Apprenticeship programs for drivers that put more skilled, safe drivers on the road; taking immediate steps to address the pandemic-driven delays,” the White House wrote.

In the U.S., drivers 21 years old and up are permitted to drive a truck beyond state borders. The apprenticeship program would look to encourage individuals ages 18 to 20, training them to operate pull hauls from 120-hour to 280-hour probation periods.

The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program will not permit apprentices to transport passengers or hazard materials. Despite license driver endorsement, they will not be able to ​​operate double or triple trailer combinations, as well as cargo tank vehicles, the federal registry stated.

FMCSA sought the additional feedback from national organizations regarding truck driver recruitment, distance limitations, weight transport, and safeguard technology.   

Some organizations in favor of the apprenticeship included the American Trucking Associations, Commercial Vehicle Training Association, International Foodservice Distributors Association, National Association of Chemical Distributors, National Grocer Association, National Retail Federation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Truckload Carriers Association.

Organizations also offered safeguards they would like to see incorporated by FMCSA. They mentioned “behavior tests, pre-program Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) skills test, added training hours, recording devices, and additional insurance,” said FMCSA.

With younger drivers behind the wheel, the program is also considering whether to limit speed to 65mph for safety concerns. At least 3,000 applicants are encouraged to sign up.

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