Pilot program turns to teenages amid severe U.S. truck driver shortage
People as young as 18 will soon be allowed to drive commercial trucks carrying tons of cargo across state lines under a federal apprenticeship pilot program that is intended to train thousands of new drivers, the New York Times reports.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a branch of the Transportation Department, outlined details for the program last week, setting up training procedures and vehicle safety technology requirements.
During the pilot program, which can last up to three years, as many as 3,000 young truckers at a time will be required to complete 400 hours of cumulative probationary time with an experienced driver in the passenger seat. After that, until they turn 21, they will be able to drive solo but under continuous monitoring by trucking companies.
The legal age for truckers who drive across state lines is currently 21, but those 18 and over can drive commercial trucks within state lines everywhere in the country except Hawaii.
Apprentices under probation must drive trucks with forward-facing video cameras and active braking collision mitigation systems and must stay under 65 miles per hour.
The program is part of a $1 trillion bill, signed into law by President Biden on Nov. 15, to modernize the nation’s aging infrastructure. Hundreds of millions were allocated for investments like expanding high-speed internet access, developing transportation programs and improving roads and bridges.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was assigned to start the pilot truck-driving program within 60 days after the infrastructure bill was signed into law, a deadline that has now passed. A start date for the pilot program has not been announced.