March 22, 2022
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The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program is a program developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help younger drivers get started as OTR truckers. With the current shortage of truck drivers due to many older drivers retiring, high turnover rates, and increasing strain on the supply chain, it’s more important than ever for trucking companies to attract and retain younger, newer drivers. This program helps carriers do just that while mitigating the risks sometimes associated with less experienced truckers.
The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program allows 18, 19, and 20-year-old drivers who already hold intrastate commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to operate commercial vehicles across state lines in interstate commerce as part of a strictly supervised apprentice program. This program is intended to help young people explore careers in truck driving while mitigating the safety risks typically associated with young and inexperienced drivers. It also allows carriers to attract new, young drivers who will be trained and supervised by their own experienced drivers.
There are two different probationary periods an apprentice must complete before graduating from the program.
During this initial period, the motor carrier must ensure that the apprentice completes 120 hours of on-duty time, of which not less than 80 hours shall be driving time in a commercial motor vehicle; and is competent in each of the following areas:
After the 120-hour probationary period, the motor carrier must ensure the apprentice completes a 280-hour second probationary period. The employing motor carrier must ensure the apprentice completes 280 hours of on-duty time, of which not less than 160 hours shall be driving time in a commercial motor vehicle; and is competent in each of the following areas:
This program is relatively new, so it may take some time for the trucking industry to reap its benefits. But with the driver shortage in full swing and many older truckers retiring, this program offers a way to attract a new crop of talent. It also helps younger drivers gain experience hauling interstate loads that they wouldn’t normally be allowed to haul because of the age restrictions on interstate commerce.
The program should also result in a reduced number of traffic accidents and improved safety performance associated with younger and less experienced drivers. Carriers will be able to make sure their trainers who are sitting in the passenger seat are the best, safest drivers in their fleet so that the new drivers are learning good habits right from the start. The U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are hoping that trucking companies will see improved safety outcomes when this initiative that partners experienced drivers with younger drivers is combined with new vehicle safety technologies and improved driver monitoring systems.
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