On Jan 13, FMCSA announced in a pre-publication Federal Register post that the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program is coming soon for around 3,000 potential drivers and 1,000 motor carriers to be involved.
Currently, 49 states and Washington DC give commercial driver licenses to people under 21 to drive commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) intrastate but cannot cross state lines.
The new Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program will allow interstate transportation for people 18 to 20 years old who have a state-issued CDL with a clean record.
They must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time accompanied by an experienced driver in an automatic or automatic manual transmission truck with automatic emergency braking, forward-facing video cameras, and top speed limited to 65 miles per hour.
The supervising driver must be at least 26 years old and have at least five years’ experience driving a CMV interstate and a CDL for at least 2 years and is required to have two years of incident-free driving with no crashes or tickets.
The young drivers in the program are also not allowed to drive trucks with more than one trailer or carry hazardous materials.
The FMCSA will issue a specific exemption to the normal age restrictions for each young driver admitted to the program, which will run for up to three years and complete a report to Congress analyzing the safety record of the teen drivers and making a recommendation on whether the younger drivers are as safe as those 21 or older.
Motor carrier requirements for the apprenticeship program
Motor carriers interested in participating must complete an application for participation and submit monthly data on:
- an apprentice’s driver activity (vehicle miles traveled, duty hours, driving hours, off-duty time or breaks)
- safety outcomes (crashes, violations, and safety-critical events), and
- any additional supporting information (onboard monitoring systems or investigative reports from previous crashes)
In addition, carriers will be required to notify FMCSA within 24 hours of:
- any injury or fatal crash involving an apprentice
- an apprentice receiving an alcohol-related citation in any vehicle (driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated)
- an apprentice choosing to leave the pilot program
- an apprentice leaving the carrier, or
- an apprentice failing a random or post-crash drug and alcohol test
The pilot program includes two probationary periods, one for 120 hours and the other for 280 hours. After that, until they turn 21, they will be able to drive by themselves but under continuous monitoring by trucking companies, including monthly safety performance reports filed with FMCSA.
The first probationary period must include at least 120 hours of on-duty time, of which at least 80 hours are driving time in a CMV. During this period, the motor carrier must ensure the apprentice:
- Completes the required hours of driving time, and
- is competent in each of the following areas: interstate, city traffic, rural 2-lane and evening driving; safety awareness; speed and space management; lane control; mirror scanning; right and left turns; and logging and complying with rules relating to hours of service.
- The second probationary period must include at least 280 hours of on-duty time, including no fewer than 160 hours of driving time in a CMV. During this period, the motor carrier must ensure the apprentice:
- Completes the required driving time, and
- is competent in each of the following areas: backing and maneuvering in close quarters; pre-trip inspections; fueling procedures; weighing loads, weight distribution and sliding tandems; coupling and uncoupling procedures; and trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation and permits.