U.S. to lower minimum age for truck drivers who cross state lines

It's part of a program designed to combat the worker shortage plaguing the trucking industry

U.S. to lower minimum age for truck drivers who cross state lines

With supply chain backlogs piling up, the United States is turning to people under the age of 21 to help solve the problem.

The U.S. will allow 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds to become truck drivers and work behind the wheel of big rigs, according to a report from the New York Post. The program is part of the series of initiatives put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

This is also part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to expand the pool of drivers through the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program. This will screen young drivers to ensure they meet “strict safety standards” to avoid crashes, traffic tickets or other driving violations, according to the report. The FMCSA will accept up to 3,000 apprentices to the program at one time.

Under the program, apprentice drivers will not be permitted to transport passengers, hazardous materials or drive double- or triple-trailer combinations or cargo tank vehicles.

Also, the government will not allow some drivers to join the program, including those who:

  • have had more than one license (except for a military license)
  • had their license suspended, revoked or canceled
  • been convicted of breaking motor vehicle traffic control laws (except parking violations)
  • have been convicted of driving under the influence
  • or used a vehicle to commit a felony or left the scene of a crash will not be permitted into the program

Apprentice drivers will be permitted to drive across state lines during 120-hour and 280-hour probationary periods with an experienced driver in the passenger seat. However, they won’t be allowed to exceed speed limits of 65 mph.

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Participants of the program will be monitored with a forward-facing video camera and will have an electronic braking crash mitigation system in the trucks used. When the probationary periods end, the apprentices will be allowed to drive on their own, but their performance will still be monitored until they turn 21 years old.

FMCSA then has to provide a report to Congress on the safety record of the drivers in the program and recommend whether the young drivers are as safe as those aged 21 and up. The program will last up to three years.

The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program was created as required by Congress as part of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted last November, according to the Associated Press. It is supported by the American Trucking Associations, which has estimated that the U.S. is more than 80,000 drivers short of the number necessary to meet current supply chain needs. Entry-level heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers will have a median annual salary of $47,130 this year, according to a previous report.

In October, one of the world’s largest trucking companies, XPO Logistics, agreed to pay $30 million to settle lawsuits filed by hundreds of drivers who claimed they earned less than minimum wage.

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