Teen Drivers to be Scrutinized in Interstate Apprenticeship Program

Under 21 Driver Assessment Tool Shows Promise in Beta Test

On January 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 they cannot cross state lines.

This new rigorous apprenticeship program will just take some of those best drivers and train them so they can cross state lines.

Requirements for drivers in the apprenticeship program

The new Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program will allow interstate transportation for:

  • people 18 to 20 years old
  • with a state-issued CDL with a clean record
  • driving an automatic or automatic manual transmission truck with automatic emergency braking, forward-facing video cameras, and top speed limited to 65 miles per hour
  • and must complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time accompanied by an experienced driver
  • who are 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
  • the supervising driver 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:

  1. any injury or fatal crash involving an apprentice
  2. an apprentice receiving an alcohol-related citation in any vehicle (driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated)
  3. an apprentice choosing to leave the pilot program
  4. an apprentice leaving the carrier, or
  5. 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.

  1. 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:
    1. Completes the required hours of driving time, and
    1. 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.
  2. 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:
    1. Completes the required driving time, and
    1. 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.

Will anybody insure these young drivers?

According to comments submitted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), “We expect it will be difficult for many motor carriers to afford insurance coverage for younger drivers. Small-business motor carriers are especially unlikely to take the risk of insuring under-21 drivers without evaluating the costs and benefits to their operations. In all likelihood, only self-insured carriers will be willing to provide coverage for under-21 interstate drivers.”

However, while some might think that age is the bigger factor in determining risk, as it does with determining insurance rates for non-CDL drivers, a recent study found that experience in big rigs was the dominating factor.

The more than 9,000 participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that included questions on the driver’s age and CDL driving experience, which was cross-referenced with driver safety performance metrics from the Motor Carrier Management Information System, as well as carrier-recorded crash data and the Commercial Driver’s License Information System.

The data showed that “for drivers with seven months to one year of CMV driving experience, crash rates were higher for drivers aged 55 years and older compared to their younger counterparts.”

The rigorous apprenticeship program should give these drivers the experience needed so that insurance coverage for the younger drivers is not so unaffordable. 

Need help monitoring your driver’s safety and driver records?

Accuracy, organization, and diligence are crucial to keeping your files in order and ready for an audit at a moment’s notice and ensuring new drivers are properly qualified before operating in a safety sensitive position.

At CNS, our DQ file management system is completely customizable to your company’s needs. The consultants at CNS stay in communication with you regarding document updating, as well as offering comprehensive reports upon request, and reports of routine audits by our own DQ file auditors.

Beyond DQ files, our safety management programs are perfect for combining multiple services and can be tailored to fit your needs, whether you are a new owner operator or a seasoned trucker or business owner.

Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:

  • ELD management
  • Driver Qualification File Management
  • New driver on-boarding
  • Driver safety meetings
  • CSA score management
  • Policies and handbooks
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • and more

Learn more about our DOT Compliance Programs

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

Related news

Related news