Bill May Spur Apprenticeship Program Participation
Are you familiar with the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) program, which enables drivers aged 18 to 20 to haul freight across state lines? If so, you may be surprised (or not so surprised) to find out that it has been a failure.The program was capped at 3,000 drivers, but currently only has about ten. Some members of Congress are hoping to enact a bill to get more participation.
The SDAP program requires many more regulations than a normal driver would, such as requiring driver-facing cameras, that make it even more of a burden to recruit and train younger truckers than it already was. American Trucking Associations CEO and President Chris Spear spoke more about it in front of a congressional hearing in March.
“It is worth noting the additional technology requirement regulators have unilaterally imposed on the SDAP not only goes beyond what Congress negotiated, but was imposed almost eight months after the enactment of the IIJA [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] and only 14 days before the application process began. This costly, unexpected, last-minute equipment mandate prompted several motor carriers to decline participation in the program altogether.”
As such, Spear says he fully supports a new bill called the DRIVE Safe Integrity Act, which enables the Department of Transportation to do whatever it takes to increase participation, even if that means removing driver-facing cameras.
“By directing DOT to steer the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program back to the course Congress originally intended and providing a path forward for participants to safely enter the workforce, this bill will ensure our industry has the talent it needs to meet the economy’s freight demands in the years to come,” Spear said in his testimony.
If the federal government wants to enable more drivers under age 21 to cross state lines, they will need to make the process as painless as possible for the carrier. After all, why hire a 20-year-old driver and install driver-facing cameras on the truck, among other forms of regulation, when it is just easier to wait a few months for their 21st birthday, or simply hire someone older? We hope that the DRIVE Safe Integrity Act passes and becomes law, as younger drivers will continue to have more scrupulous standards than those over 21, even without the camera requirement.
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