FMCSA moving under-21 pilot program forward, answers some concerns

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Updated Apr 20, 2022

In a Federal Register notice asking the White House to renew its Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration responded to some concerns from industry stakeholders during the agency’s previous request for the program earlier this year.

The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program will allow 18- to 20-year-old truck drivers to drive in interstate commerce as apprentices with motor carriers that sign up to participate in the program.

The White House previously approved an information collection request (ICR) for the program under emergency procedures on Jan. 24. It expires on July 31. FMCSA said its request to have the ICR renewed is necessary for the agency to conduct the pilot program “to determine the safety impacts of allowing 18- to 20-year-old CDL holders to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. The ICR will cover data collected on drivers and carriers participating in the pilot program.”

After the first request in January, FMCSA said it received a total of 144 comments, and 102 of them were opposed to the program. The agency, in its new request, responded to a number of concerns expressed by commenters. Among the concerns raised were the following asks of the agency with respect to the program:

  • Require additional performance benchmarks, such as mountainous driving. FMCSA noted that it does not view mountainous driving as broad enough to be required by all apprentices, “as some may never require mountainous driving,” the agency said. FMCSA added that additional benchmarks should be at the discretion of each participating carrier and experienced driver in the truck with the apprentice.
  • Increase the requirements for experienced drivers working with apprentices to have five consecutive years with no violations, crashes, etc. FMCSA said it does not see a benefit or reason to increase the requirement for experienced drivers beyond what is described in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that mandated the program. The IIJA requires that the “experienced drivers” riding with apprentices be at least 26 years old, have held a CDL and been employed for at least two years and have at least five years of commercial experience.
  • Visibly identify apprentice drivers with high-visibility markings, such as stickers. FMCSA disagreed, stating that the recommendation has potential to bias the data collection by changing driving behaviors around trucks marked with such markings.
  • Increase the minimum rate of liability insurance to $10 million for participating carriers. FMCSA noted it does not have the authority to change liability requirements.

The full list of commenter recommendations and FMCSA’s responses can be seen here.

[Related: How insurance companies are approaching under-21 pilot program]