Why Supporters of FMCSA’s New Teen Trucker Program Still Have Concerns
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part Transportation Nation Network series exploring what industry groups are saying about the FMCSA’s upcoming teen trucker pilot program.
Click HERE to read part one.
Washington, D.C. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is soon to launch a pilot program allowing drivers as young as 18-years-old to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.
The FMCSA has dubbed the initiative the “Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program” (SDAPP) and will allow for 1,000 motor carriers to hire as many as 3,000 apprentices ages 18, 19, and 20, to participate at any one time.
Groups opposing and in favor of the program have weighed in with public comments.
Let’s take a look at what those in favor of the SDAPP are saying.
DRIVE Safe Coalition
The DRIVE Safe Coalition (DSC) is made up of more than 100 trade groups across many sectors of American business.
Some of the most prominent trucking industry groups are part of the DSC including: the American Trucking Associations (ATA), NATSO, Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), and Commercial Vehicle Training Alliance (CVTA).
In public comments, the DSC said it “enthusiastically” supports the SDAPP arguing it will “provide a real opportunity to address current and future truck driver shortages,” while by allowing “younger commercial drivers to operate across state lines and transport interstate freight if they meet heightened training and safety equipment.”
However, the DSC expressed concerns about what it called potentially “burdensome” reporting requirements participating motor carriers would be expected to provide.
What are the proposed reporting requirements?
According to the FMCSA, participating carriers will be required to submit monthly data on an apprentice’s driver activity (e.g., vehicle miles traveled, duty hours, driving hours, off-duty time, or breaks), safety outcomes (e.g., crashes, violations, and safety-critical events).
Participating carriers must also notify the Agency within 24 hours of:
1) Any injury or fatal crash involving an apprentice;
2) An apprentice receiving an alcohol-related citation in any vehicle (e.g., driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated);
3) An apprentice choosing to leave the pilot program;
4) An apprentice leaving the carrier; or
5) An apprentice failing a random or post-crash drug/alcohol test.
Additionally, participating carriers must also register an apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in order to qualify for consideration.
What requirements is the DSC proposing to change?
The DSC is proposing to “reduce the amount of monthly data employers must provide to FMCSA” as well as to “remove the registered apprenticeship requirement.”
While the DSC said it recognizes the importance of the Agency collecting such data, it warned “there is a very real possibility that overall subscription to the program may be delayed or reduced due to the costs and burdens associated.”
With respect to crash data, the DSC argued the FMCSA should “include detailed information so that the Agency can make accurate assessments as to the preventability of each crash.”
Further, the DSC contended reporting of inspection data should be limited to only those that resulted in violations attributed to the driver, and likewise, citation data should be limited to only moving violations.
“We do not believe parking tickets, for example, are generally relevant to FMCSA’s safety responsibilities,” the DSC said.
Also at issue is the requirement to report video data collected during “safety-critical” events.
The DSC asserted “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) can be complex in the event data they record” and would be “impractical” for the Agency to require for participating carriers to submit “all video system data for each driver participating in this program.”
“An ADAS that detects an ‘event’ as a result of the driver operating over a rough road would not be relevant to this program, as compared to ADAS ‘events’ that capture a hard brake or collision,” the DSC explained.
Lastly, the DSC urged the FMCSA to limit Record of Duty Status (RODS) data reporting to the six-month record retention timeframe required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.