Federal agencies Bus/limo/taxi Trucking Transportation

FMCSA removes two requirements for young trucker pilot program


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Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has eased restrictions on a pilot program that allows commercial truck drivers younger than 21 to operate interstate.

The agency has lifted the requirement for Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program drivers to use vehicles with a forward-facing video event capture system. Also, motor carriers no longer must have a Registered Apprenticeship number from the Department of Labor to participate in the program, FMCSA says in a notice published May 14.

The program was established in November 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. FMCSA announced the program in a notice published in January 2022.

Forty-nine states – all but Hawaii – 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.

Although the three-year pilot program initially was designed to accommodate up to 3,000 apprentices, participation has been low. Signed into law March 9, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 (H.R. 4366) featured a provision designed to help boost registration.

Participants in the pilot 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 commercial truck for at least five years in interstate commerce, and must not have had any “preventable accidents” or pointed moving violations.

Further, an apprentice can drive only commercial motor vehicles equipped with an automatic or automatic manual transmission, an active braking collision mitigation system, and a governed speed of 65 mph – either at the pedal or via adaptive cruise control.

During a July 2022 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.”

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