Teenage truck drivers will soon be allowed to drive across state lines under a pilot program the Transportation Department is advancing.
Recently enacted infrastructure law included apprenticeships that will let people as young as 18 drive trucks interstate, an idea pitched as a way to help alleviate nationwide delays in the supply chain of goods. One trade group, the American Trucking Associations, has estimated that the industry is short 80,000 drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration revealed details of the pilot apprenticeship program in an information collection request set to publish Friday. Public comment must be submitted within five days. The law (
Under the program, 18- to 20-year-olds will be allowed to operate trucks in interstate commerce supervised by an experienced driver for two probationary periods, totaling no less than 240 driving hours. The apprentice then could drive without an experienced driver, according to the regulation. Motor carriers in the program will need to submit monthly crash, inspection, safety and exposure data.
The program has already raised safety concerns from advocates who argue that younger drivers are more likely to crash. Currently, only drivers 21 and older can hold a commercial driver’s license to operate across state lines.
“Research confirming the dangers and risks of young drivers is clear and compelling,” Russ Swift, co-chair of the Parents Against Tired Truckers, said in a statement after the infrastructure bill passed. Swift’s son was killed in a crash with a teenage trucker.
The White House highlighted the program in its “Trucking Action Plan” last month in response to supply-chain strains. It said it was “incorporating Registered Apprenticeships to ensure rigorous training standards and pairing each young driver with an experienced mentor.”
A shortage of workers and backlogged ports has slowed the movement of goods, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are urging a young trucker program to move goods along. More than 80 lawmakers asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for the program in a November letter.
“There simply aren’t enough truckers on the road to meet the demand,” the lawmakers wrote.