What You Should Know About The USDOT’s Brand New Teen Trucker Program

Washington D.C. — The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) will soon be rolling out a new program allowing drivers as young as 18 years of age to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.

Included in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill just approved by Congress is an “Apprenticeship Pilot Program.”


An extensive list of trucking industry groups have long-advocated for the USDOT to permit commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders as young as 18 years old to drive cross-country.

After years of trying, these groups successfully lobbied for the inclusion of the Apprenticeship Pilot Program into the infrastructure legislation.

Let’s take a look at what you should know about it.

How long will the teen trucker study last?

The full scope of the teen pilot program will be established by the USDOT and will remain in place for a period of three years from the time it is enacted.


Who is eligible to participate in the teen trucker pilot program?

An apprentice must be between 18 and 20 years of age and hold a valid CDL.

How does the program work?

An apprentice must first complete a”probationary period” consisting of 120 hours of on-duty time of which 80 hours is driving time.

At the conclusion of the 120-hour probationary period, the employer is responsible to determine if the apprentice is competent in seven performance categories including:

1. interstate, city traffic, rural, 2-lane, and evening driving;
2. safety awareness,
3. speed and space management,
4. lane control,
5. mirror scanning,
6. right and left turns, and
7. logging and complying with hours of service regulations.

If the apprentice is cleared to continue in the program, he/she must then complete a 280-hour probationary period of on-duty time in which 160 hours must be driving time.


At the conclusion of the 280-hour probationary period, the employer is responsible to determine if the apprentice is competent in six performance categories including:

1. backing and maneuvering in close quarters,
2. pre-trip inspections,
3. fueling procedures,
4. weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems,
5. coupling and uncoupling procedures, and
6. trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation and permits.

During the entirety of the probationary 400 hours, an apprentice may only operate a CMV equipped with an automatic manual or automatic transmission, active braking collision mitigation system, forward facing video-event capturing system, and a speed governor (at the pedal and under adaptive cruise control) set at 65 mph or less.


Additionally, an “experienced driver” is required to be in the passenger seat at all times the apprentice is behind the wheel.

To qualify, an experienced driver must be at least 26 years of age having at least five years of interstate driving experience and a clean driving record for the previous two years.

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If the apprentice is involved in a preventable accident or is cited for a moving violation that results in points being added to his/her license, the apprentice must then undergo “remediation and additional training” until he/she can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the employer, competence in each of the previously mentioned performance benchmarks.


How many apprentices will be allowed in the program?

Only 3,000 apprentices will be allowed to participate in the program at any one time.

Are there types of cargo and size/weight limitations on what the apprentices are allowed to haul?

Yes. At no time can an apprentice transport a passenger (other than the experienced driver).

Additionally, hauling hazardous cargo is not allowed nor is pulling a special configuration or operating a tractor-trailer weighing more than 80,000 lbs.

What happens after the 3-year program ends?

The apprentices who successfully completed the program — including those who are under 21 years of age when the program terminates — can continue operating in interstate commerce unless disqualified by the USDOT secretary.

The USDOT secretary is required to submit a report to Congress within 120 days from the conclusion of the program.


The report must detail the findings and conclusions including an analysis of the safety record of apprentices participating in the program compared to other CMV drivers, and the number of drivers that discontinued participation before completing the program.

The USDOT secretary must also provide a recommendation regarding whether the level of safety achieved by the pilot program is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety for equivalent CMV drivers aged 21 years or older.

When will the teen trucker program begin?

The USDOT has 60 days from the time President Biden signs the infrastructure bill into law (which is set for Monday, November 15, 2021) to establish the full details of the program including the expected start date.

Which carriers are eligible to participate in the program?

That remains to be seen as the full details of the program are not yet completed.

TransportationNation.com will provide more details once they are made available.

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Comment (2)

  1. I train people to get their CDL. Teenagers do not make good decisions! You regulate everything the drivers do in the guise of safety, and then you want to make this totally ridiculous change! What happened to safety?

  2. Big mistake! Why do they think putting teens behind the wheel of an 80,000 lb vehicle a good idea? Regular car insurance is through the roof for young drivers….there is a reason for that! Maybe they should have researched that first!


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