Webinar Q&A: “FMCSA’s Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program: Can Younger Drivers Be Key to Solving the Driver Shortage?”

Did you have a chance to attend our recent webinar, “FMCSA’s Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program: Can Younger Drivers Be Key to Solving the Driver Shortage?”? We received more questions than we had time to answer in the allotted time, so our presenter, P. Sean Garney, Co-Director of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, answered them below in this Q&A-style blog post.

If you weren’t able to join the webinar live, don’t worry – you can watch it on-demand anytime!

Question: Will there be visibility to see how these drivers are being used? For example, shuttle work, local, regional, long haul? I am thinking carriers will want to keep them "closer to home".

Answer: FMCSA will likely aim to have a diverse study group representing various sectors of the trucking industry. 

Question: What does this mean for insurance needs?

Answer: FMCSA has not proposed any additional insurance requirements to participate in the pilot program. 

Question: Will there be a uniform Train the Trainer curriculum?

Answer: FMCSA has outlined specific elements that participating drivers must be trained on but hasn’t released any specific “train the trainer” curriculum to date. 

Question: If an apprentice driver leaves their employment, do they forfeit the apprenticeship or does it carry over to the new employer?

Answer: An apprentice needs to work for a registered and enrolled motor carrier to participate in the pilot program. 

Question: So, it's not on the eligibility slide, but assuming this is only open to apprentices under 21...can we expand it to an apprentice program that is open to others but just report on the participants aged 18-20? 

Answer: Yes, carriers can implement an apprentice program outside of the pilot program and enroll drivers over 21. These drivers would not be eligible for the FMCSA program. 

Question: In your experience, do you think hazmat and tanker will ever be included in the program?

Answer: No. Congress stipulated that apprentices may not haul HazMat when they directed FMCSA to conduct the pilot program. 

Question: Will training in the Tri-State area be included? Driving from OH to CO is not the same as NYC to Boston.

Answer: FMCSA hopes to enroll drivers that will provide a representative sample of the various trucking operations. 

Question: Will this affect our insurance rates, having younger drivers on our policies?

Answer: I would suggest contacting your insurance representative to discuss the implications of participating in the program. 

Question:  If they can't do long-combination vehicles, what is the biggest vehicle they can drive?

Answer: Class 8 Tractor Trailer Combinations. 

Question: You mentioned that employers who need drivers to haul hazmat are not eligible for this program. Do you foresee this changing?

Answer: No. Congress stipulated that apprentices may not haul HazMat when they directed FMCSA to conduct the pilot program. 

Question: What mechanisms are in place to ensure this program will not be used as more of a team operation? Or even a full driver %2B1/2 time driver to get more utilization out of the asset vs. actually training? This has happened in previous programs and has led to some of the nuclear verdicts we have seen.

Answer: While no specific mechanisms have been announced, FMCSA and state enforcement officials will have some visibility into the operations of apprentices and their experienced driver counterparts which may enable enforcement. 

Question: Does this apply to all new drivers looking to get a CDL-A or only drivers between the ages 18-21?

Answer: Only CDL drivers between 18 and 21 will be eligible for the FMCSA pilot but carriers may independently develop and operate an apprentice program to attract CDL drivers over 21 years of age.  

Question: Do you think this will open doors for the DOL and the industry onboard more foreign temporary labor to also help solve the seasonal capacity issue?

Answer: I am unaware of any discussions of foreign temporary labor in the context of the pilot program. 

Question: Does the apprentice have any commitment they have to make post-training to stay with the company providing the training?

Answer: FMCSA has not outlined any specific requirements regarding the nature of the employment relationship between the carrier and the apprentice. 

Question: We are registered with the FMCSA and state for our ELDT program. We are private, not public. Can we hire a younger driver through our ELDT program then move them into the Apprenticeship for ongoing training? 

Answer: If you are selected to participate in the apprenticeship program this would likely be an acceptable protocol though it would not exempt the carrier from the additional training requirements envisioned in the pilot program. 

Question: Will there be data reported about how this will affect these younger drivers mentally? Truck driving can be long and lonely. I'm curious to know if this is something that will be considered and monitored.

Answer: FMCSA’s information collection request does not suggest collecting data regarding the mental impacts of truck driving on younger drivers. 

Question: Driver turnover will be a huge factor during this. How may that skew the data collected since a large number of driver will leave before they have a chance to have an accident

Answer: FMCSA will be collecting a variety of safety data including violations and safety-events in addition to crash data. This will hopefully account for driver turnover. 

Question: Does it make sense for a small carrier to try and push this with our insurance? We have about 100 drivers.

Answer: This question is best addressed between the motor carrier and the insurance provider. 


Stay up to date on CDL trucking trends! Be sure to check out the DriverReach blog for other relevant articles and head over to our webinars page for an up-to-date list of upcoming events and on-demand recordings.

Listen to Taking the Hire Road podcast, hosted by Jeremy Reymer and in collaboration with FreightWaves, for timely conversations with industry experts. For more information, or to join a live group demo, visit www.driverreach.com/livedemo


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