Federal agencies Trucking Transportation

Truckers under 21: Registration opens for FMCSA pilot program on interstate driving

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Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is accepting applications for an apprenticeship pilot program that allows commercial truck drivers younger than 21 to operate interstate.

Forty-nine states (Hawaii is the exception) and the District of Columbia allow 18- to 20-year-olds to obtain commercial driver’s licenses, but those drivers can operate only within state lines.

Established in November when President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law and announced in a notice published in the Jan. 14 Federal Register, the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program will accommodate up to 3,000 apprentices and operate for a maximum of three years. Qualified motor carriers interested in participating can apply online.

Participants in the apprenticeship program are required to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time accompanied by an experienced driver. That driver may not be younger than 26, must have held a CDL for at least two years, must have driven a CMV for at least five years in interstate commerce, and must not have had any “preventable accidents” or pointed moving violations.

Additionally, an apprentice can drive only commercial motor vehicles that have an automatic or automatic manual transmission, an active braking collision mitigation system, a forward-facing video event capture system, and a governed speed of 65 mph – either at the pedal or via adaptive cruise control.

 

During a July 19 hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said: “The question that this pilot program speaks to, of course, is: Is there a way to engage younger drivers without any kind of detriment to safety? And I think that a pilot program has provided us with a responsible way to determine that.”

Buttigieg added that the Department of Transportation will monitor the program, “watching closely, of course, to see how it unfolds and then ultimately gather the data that’ll tell us what, if any, safety impact there is.”

In July, FMCSA hosted a webinar on the pilot program.

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