February 07, 2022
Teen Truckers? What to Know About the U.S.’s Proposed Trucking Pilot Program
We’re all familiar with the ongoing driver shortage crisis that has plagued the trucking industry over the past few years; something that has since gotten worse since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic began. Is the solution teen truckers?
Trade groups like the American Trucking Association have expressed their concern about the declining driver work force, especially since it’s happening in tandem with the rising demand for truck drivers as moving freight in a timely manner becomes more difficult.
A potential solution to the trucker shortage
This all begs the question: What can be done to solve this problem? Well, the federal government has proposed a potential solution. This new pilot program began with allowing people 18 and older to drive commercial trucks within state lines and will soon be expanding to allow drivers 18 and older to drive commercial trucks across state lines as well.
In other words, we will soon see a new generation of teen truckers on the open road. This federal apprenticeship pilot program will allow as many as 3,000 young truckers at a time complete 400 hours of cumulative probationary training time with an experienced driver in the passenger seat. After that, they will be allowed to drive solo under continuous monitoring until they turn 21.
The legal age for truckers to cross state lines is 21, however, given the driver shortage, the current administration made this plan to help mitigate the problem. This program is a part of a $1 trillion bill signed into law by President Biden in November 2021. The bill assigned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to begin the pilot truck-driving program within 60 days after the bill was signed into law. A deadline that has since passed, a start date for the pilot program has yet to be announced.
A Trucking Pilot Program for teens met with mixed reception
This law has been met with mixed reception. Some have argued this will help with supply chain backlogs, The American Trucking Association supports the pilot program, saying it will help with the current driver shortage. Right now, it’s estimated that the U.S. is over 80,000 drivers short of the number it needs to meet current demand.
On the flip side, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have reservations about the program. Their president, Cathy Chase, was quoted in a New York Times article saying, “This really is a Band-Aid on top of a deep wound, and it’s also a self-inflicted wound. There is not a truck driver shortage issue, there is a truck driver retention issue.”
Rigorous training and safety protocol to be included in teen trucking pilot program
In regards to safety concerns, the program outlines a rigorous safety training program, requiring an additional 400 hours of advanced safety training, in which participants are evaluated against specific performance benchmarks. Once the training program has ended, the drivers will be outfitted with trucks that have electronic braking crash mitigation systems, forward facing video cameras, and the teen truckers’ speeds must not exceed 65mph.
It’s yet to be seen how this pilot program will affect the trucking industry, but we can all hope for the best as we navigate through these unprecedented circumstances in the trucking and supply chain industry.
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