U.S To Allow Teens To Drive Semi-trucks Across States To Solve Shortage Issue

The US Government is going ahead with a plan to let teenagers drive big trucks from one state to another, as part of a test program.

At present, truckers who move from one state to another must be at least 21 years old, but an apprenticeship program required by Congress to reduce supply chain backlogs plans to allow 18-20 years old truckers drive outside their home state.

As per the pilot program designed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the teens would be screened and only those who do not have driving-while-impaired violations or traffic tickets for causing a crash, will be allowed to drive.

Road safety advocates are, however, against the program as they say that it is younger drivers who get into more crashes than older ones. They say it is not advisable to let teenage drivers be responsible for rigs weighing 80,000 pounds and cause serious damage when they hit lighter vehicles.

The apprenticeship pilot program was required by Congress as part of the infrastructure bill signed into law on Nov. 15. As per the bill, the FMCSA, which is part of the Transportation Department, should begin the program within 60 days.

The American Trucking Associations, a large industry trade group, supports the measure as a means to tide over the shortage of drivers. The group estimates that the nation is running short of over 80,000 drivers, as demand to move freight reaches historic highs.

Under the apprenticeship program, younger drivers can cross state lines during 120-hour and 280-hour probationary periods, as long as an experienced driver is in the passenger seat. Trucks used in the program must have an electronic braking crash mitigation system, a forward-facing video camera, and the speed must not cross 65 mph.

After the probation, they can drive on their own, but companies have to monitor their performance until they turn 21. Not more than 3,000 apprentices can take part in the training at any given time.

The FMCSA must reach out to carriers with excellent safety records to take part in the program, said the Transportation Department.

The program will be for three years, and the motor carrier agency must submit a report to Congress analyzing the safety record of the teen drivers and making a recommendation on whether they are as safe as those 21 or older.

The test is part of a wider set of measures taken by the Biden administration to deal with the trucker shortage and improve working conditions for the drivers.

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