Starting today, July 26, carriers can register to participate in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, a combined effort with the Department of Labor that acts on the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's mandate to explore allowing younger drivers to operate interstate.
While the program seeks to attract a diverse group of participants from small, medium and large trucking companies, it does require carriers to overcome some administrative hurdles. Carriers who go through the steps and become a recognized apprenticeship program will gain access to an outperforming group of workers and potentially tax credits as well.
To begin the process, carriers must visit www.FMCSA.dot.gov/safedriver and click the yellow button to access the program's data portal, where carriers will submit an application and, if approved, this is where carriers will input data reporting requirements as well.
In an effort to get the most diverse and realistic dataset from the pilot program, FMCSA is looking for all types of carriers around the country, as well as different pay structures and ranges of annual miles traveled.
FMCSA will admit a maximum of 1,000 carriers to the program and a maximum of 3,000 apprentice drivers.
Experienced drivers accompanying a trainee in the program during supervisory periods must meet the following criteria:
At least 26 years of age;
Must have held a CDL for the two-year period ending on the date on which the individual serves as an supervisory driver;
During that two-year period, must have had no DOT-reportable, preventable accidents or pointed moving violations;
Must have a minimum of five years of experience driving a CMV in interstate commerce.
Finally, the carrier must provide vehicles that meet FMCSA's safety standard, which is notably more rigorous than what the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires in that it lists in-cab, driver-facing cameras as required. All trucks used within the program must include:
An automated-manual or automatic transmission;
An active braking collision mitigation system;
A forward-facing video event capture system;
And a governed speed of 65 miles per hour at the pedal and under adaptive cruise control.
Carriers can install additional safety devices and govern the trucks slower than 65 mph should they choose to, an FMCSA representative said.
Carriers that meet all requirements and successfully apply to the program must put the apprentice driver through a 120-hour probationary period and a 280-hour probationary period at minimum
The carrier will report safety data on the apprentice driver to FMCSA on a monthly basis, and FMCSA may terminate any apprenticeship or the program itself at any point if it deems that action in the interest of public safety.
Becoming a Registered Apprenticeship
Motor carriers can apply to the program before they become a registered apprenticeship with the DOL, but they must complete that process before getting approved. In a public information session held jointly with the FMCSA, DOL touted the benefits of registered apprenticeships: boosting retention and employee loyalty, boosting diversity and inclusion and potentially enabling access to federal funds and tax credits.