February 7th, 2022
New Federal Apprentice Program for Commercial Truck Drivers
Tractor trailers are some of the largest vehicles on our roadways weighing up to 80,000 pounds when loaded. When these massive vehicles are involved in a motor vehicle accident with a passenger vehicle, the results are usually horrendous and the injuries devastating and life-changing for the individuals involved and their families. This is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enacted regulations pertaining to operation of commercial vehicles and their operators including a minimum age requirement of 21 for any commercial driver that is operating a tractor trailer across state lines. That is until now.
In an effort to alleviate the strain on the commercial trucking industry due to a lack of experienced drivers and the ongoing supply chain crisis afflicting the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created a pilot apprenticeship program called the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (“SDAP”) which would allow drivers as young as 18 years old to sit behind the wheel of a tractor trailer. Under the apprenticeship program, driver’s ages 18 to 20 who possess a commercial driver’s license will be permitted to operate a commercial vehicle along the Interstate System and across state lines so long as an experienced commercial driver over the age of 26 with at least five years of commercial driving experience is riding along in the passenger seat. In an effort to increase safety and avoid potentially catastrophic accidents from occurring, any commercial vehicle being operated by an apprentice driver must be equipped with forward-facing cameras, active braking collision mitigation systems, and must be driven under 65 miles per hour. Under the pilot program, as many as 3,000 young CDL drivers could be behind the wheel operating tractor trailers during their either 120-hour and 280-hour probationary period. Upon successful completion of the probationary period, these young drivers will then be permitted to operate a commercial motor vehicle on their own. A start date for the program has not been established; however, it is likely imminent as the bill that created the program was signed on November 15, 2021 and required the program to start within 60 days of the bill being signed into law.
Statistically, younger drivers, whether operating a passenger or commercial vehicle, are more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. Giving the keys of a massive tractor trailer to a young and relatively inexperienced driver and turning them loose on an Interstate Highway where the speed limits are increased is irresponsible. It will sadly and mostly likely result in a number of crashes occurring along our Interstate System. If you have been injured in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, you may have the right to pursue compensation. Contact our office and speak with one of our lawyers who have experience handling commercial trucking matters.