The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently issued a notice establishing the new Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (pilot program). This pilot program will allow persons between the ages of 18 and 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. This pilot program stems from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021.
It should be noted that there are specific standards motor carriers must meet in order to participate in the pilot program (e.g., motor carriers can’t have a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating, a crash rate above the national average, a driver out of service (OOS) rate above the national average or a vehicle OOS rate above the national average). As such, employers and carriers should familiarize themselves with the notice and the parameters it describes.
Additionally, as a condition of participating in the pilot program, approved motor carriers must establish an apprenticeship program. The pilot program limits participation to no more than 3,000 apprentices at any one time. Further, the FMCSA may allow up to 1,000 motor carriers to hire the 3,000 apprenticeship pilot program participants. The apprenticeship program must include two probationary periods for apprentice drivers, one for 120 hours and another for 280 hours:
- 120-hour probationary period requirements—During the 120-hour probationary period, the employing motor carrier must ensure apprentices complete 120 hours of on-duty time, of which not less than 80 hours shall be driving time in a CMV. Apprentices must also be competent in each of the following areas: Interstate, city traffic, rural two-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.
- 280-hour probationary period requirements—After the 120-hour probationary period, motor carriers must ensure the apprentices complete a 280-hour probationary period. The employing motor carriers must ensure apprentices complete 280 hours of on-duty time, of which not less than 160 hours shall be driving time in a CMV. Apprentices must also be 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.
Once the FMCSA announces the implementation of the pilot program, interested motor carriers will be required to comply with program standards and complete an application form.