America has yet to fully recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many service providers, including the vital supply chain that moves goods from manufacturers to consumers’ homes, fared no better.
When a country lacks the people to supply goods within its borders, it will affect both manufacturers and consumers. To help alleviate the national driver shortage that is delaying the movement of goods from manufacturing plants to homes, lawmakers created the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) program. The SDAP is especially important for motor carriers that cross state lines and experience a shortage of truckers.
“Even though there is a shortage of truckers, it is important for truckers to respect and follow safety guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone on the road,” said Chong Ye, a traffic accident lawyer. Ye Law Firm, Inc. PS “With the right buy-in, the Learner Driver Safety Pilot Program can help move goods while prioritizing motorist safety.”
Why the Safe Driver Apprenticeship (SDAP) Pilot Program?
According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the United States is short of more than 80,000 truck drivers, with forecasts to expand to 160,000 by 2030. Shortage of drivers is causing supply chain disruptions , generating concerns in the trucking industry.
To solve this problem, lawmakers introduced the SDAP program. The program’s introductory initiative is to address the persistent shortage of drivers in the trucking industry by allowing Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders between the ages of 18 and 20 to travel on interstate routes. after completing the demanding apprenticeship program. The program reverses federal law enacted in 1938, before the advent of the interstate highway system that prohibits CDL holders under age 21 from operating a commercial motor vehicle across state lines.
The program is one of several efforts by the Biden administration to address the truck driver shortage by expanding the pool of drivers eligible to work in interstate trucking. Thus, truckers will benefit from better working conditions and the sector will have a sufficient number of drivers to meet the growing demand for freight. The program will also help reduce backlogs or supply chain disruptions while providing a viable employment alternative for recent high school graduates.
Driver and Motor Carrier Program Eligibility
Here are the eligibility requirements for TOR drivers and carriers participating in the testing program, according to the Federal Register notice published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
#1. Driver Eligibility
Drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 who currently have a CDL in their state are eligible for the program. CDL holders must also meet specific requirements listed in the Federal Registry Notice to participate.
During the course of the program, an apprentice who commits an infraction, serious traffic violation, railroad crossing violation, or violation of a restraining order will be disqualified and expelled from the program. In addition, the pilot program can only accommodate 3,000 apprentices at a time.
#2. Motor Carrier Eligibility
Motor carriers who want to be part of the program must complete an application form. Motor carriers must meet specific criteria listed in the Federal Register Notice to be eligible for participation, as well as a satisfactory safety clearance and no active legal action within the past six years.
Not having a driver and an out-of-service vehicle (OOS) rate above the national average are also part of the eligibility factors. In addition, motor carrier collision rates must not exceed the national average.
The SDAP program includes two safety training courses. They consist of a probationary period of 120 hours and a probationary period of 280 hours. An apprentice may transport goods over state lines during probationary periods, but must be supervised by an experienced driver.
The FMCSA definition of an experienced driver is a CDL holder of at least 26 years of age, with 5 years of experience in an interstate commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The driver must also be someone who has been employed for at least the past two years and has had no preventable accidents reportable to the agency or serious driving infractions. Additionally, trucks involved in the program must be equipped with an electronic braking and collision mitigation system, forward-facing video, with a speed limit of 65 mph.
After completing both trial periods, an apprentice can now cross state lines without an accompanied driver in the passenger seat. At this point, the apprentice is still considered a SDAP participant, according to the FMCSA, and their safety performance must be monitored by the employing motor carrier, in addition to monthly safety performance reports submitted. to the FMCSA, until the driver reaches the age of 21.
Stages of the probationary period
The trial period takes place in two phases:
#1. The first probationary period
The first trial period involves the mandatory completion of at least 120 hours of service, of which at least 80 hours spent driving a utility vehicle. During this first period, the road transport employer must guarantee that the apprentice performs the necessary driving hours and that he is competent in the following areas:
- Between States
- traffic in the city
- Evening driving and rural dual carriageway
- Safety Awareness
- Space and speed management
- Lane control
- Mirror scan
- Left and right turns
- Follow the hours of service and respect the rules
#2. The second probationary period
After completing the 120-hour probationary period, the apprentice must then complete the second probationary period. During the apprentice’s second probationary period, the apprentice must complete 280 hours of on-the-job training, including at least 160 hours of commercial vehicle driving. The employing road haulier must guarantee that the apprentice performs the required driving hours and that he is competent in the following areas:
- Maneuvers and close retreats
- Checks carried out before departure
- Refueling procedures
- Load weighing
- Sliding tandems and weight distribution
- Coupling and decoupling processes
- Preparation of routes, truck trajectories and navigation systems
Data Collected by FMCSA
Throughout the program, FMCSA will collect data on the training provided to apprentices as part of the pilot project to improve safety. In addition, statistics on the safety record of participating apprentices will be collected and compared to those of other CMV drivers.
Also, the number of drivers who drop out of the program before the program ends; a comparison of driver safety records before, during and after each trial period should also be part of the FMCSA data. Other data collected includes comparing each participating driver’s average on-duty time, driving time, and time spent away from the home terminal.
The purpose of this data is for the FMCSA to compile it all and put it into a report. Then they will present it to Congress who will review the safety records of teenage drivers and recommend whether they are as safe as drivers 21 or older. Congress could pass new legislation to expand the program.
Currently, a truck driver must be 21 to travel state lines in the United States with their cargo. This rule prevents many people from entering the profession, resulting in a shortage of truckers. With the SDAP program, many new truck drivers will join the industry to help alleviate severe truck driver shortages and supply chain backlogs.