How the new teens driving big rig program works
The pilot apprenticeship program allows teens to drive big rigs across state lines. Today 49 states and Washington D.C. allow drivers under the age of 21 to drive big rigs within their state. However, the U.S. Congress passed a law on November 15, 2021 for nationwide driving. Programs went into effect 60 days later.
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is implementing the program.
Details about the program allowing teens to drive big rigs
The program helps address supply chain backlogs. In fact, backlogs have become a national issue. Currently, a shortage of drivers exists. The estimated shortage is 80,000 drivers. In addition, the American Trucking Association supports the program.
The apprenticeship program has the following requirements for trucks and truck drivers:
- Electronic braking crash mitigation systems in trucks
- A forward facing video camera
- Speed limits set to 65 mph
The program sets up probationary periods of 120-hour and 280-hour periods. During such periods, younger drivers can cross state lines. However, they need an experienced driver with them in the passenger seat. When the probationary period ends, they can drive alone. However, trucking companies will monitor their performance until they reach age 22. Also, no more than 3,000 apprentices can participate in the program at the same time.
The FMCSA has opened the program to carriers with excellent safety records. After three years, Congress will review the program.
Concerns about the program
Some safety associations, such as Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety have concerns about the program. They reason that younger drivers have higher crash rates than older drivers. Moreover, the potential for fatalities are greater with trucks weighing up to 40 tons.
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