Recognizing the risks to our economy from a shortage of commercial truck drivers, the government has launched a plan. The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) program will allow younger drivers with a commercial driver’s license to drive interstate. This article explores the conditions of SDAP and the program’s value to enterprise companies.

Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program explained

The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program is a new approach to driver training. It was established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). The SDAP encourages enterprise companies to offer trucking apprenticeships to a younger demographic of drivers.

The current commercial driver population is aging, as is the workforce in many industries. Brad Ball, the president of Roadmaster Drivers School, says, “There’s been a shortage for many years, and the primary reason is that more people are retiring than getting into the industry.”

In January 2022, the government announced this effort to help individuals ages 18, 19, and 20 explore interstate trucking careers and help trucking companies hire and train new drivers through an apprenticeship pilot program.

What is the aim of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program?

Drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 can drive semi-trucks in every American state (with the exception of Hawaii). But not across state borders. So, an 18- to 20-year-old can currently drive the roughly 800 miles from Key West to Pensacola within Florida, but they can’t drive 80 miles across state lines. “It’s a little ridiculous that we don’t think they can drive across state lines,” says Ball.

As part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the SDAP aims to attract more drivers to the industry to help ease the global supply chain crisis. The SDAP invites a maximum of 3,000 apprenticeship drivers at a time to participate in the three-year program.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates the United States is facing a shortage of more than 80,000 truck drivers. Plus, it predicts that the gap may grow to 160,000 by 2030. 

Key requirements of participants in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program

The program raises standards for drivers under the age of 21. To qualify under the SDAP program, drivers will need:

  • A commercial driver’s license in their home state.
  • To complete two probationary periods. One for 120 hours and the other for 280 hours.
  • Specific vehicle safety technologies installed on their trucks.

The required safety technologies include speed governance, an active braking collision mitigation system, and a forward-facing dash cam. 

Apprentices will be disqualified from the program in the event of a major offense, serious traffic violation, railroad-highway grade crossing violation, or an out-of-service order violation.

Why enterprises should consider implementing this truck driving apprenticeship

Truck driving apprenticeship programs provide opportunities to under-21 drivers. The ban on interstate commerce has been a recruitment challenge in the past. However, with the SDAP program, fleets can recruit and train young drivers who are at the age of selecting a career path to drive.

Appealing to younger drivers not only counters the current, aging workforce, but also provides fleets with access to new employees who are adaptable and independent. 

What motor carriers need to be eligible for SDAP

The FMCSA isn’t yet accepting applications yet, but motor carriers will need to apply to participate in the pilot program. 

To qualify, the carrier must:

  • Have proper operating authority, if required, and registration.
  • Have at least the minimum levels of financial responsibility required by the FMCSRs.
  • Not be a high- or moderate-risk motor carrier as defined in 81 FR 11875.
  • Not have a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating.
  • Not have open enforcement actions, e.g., Imminent Hazard, Operations Out-of-Service (OOS) Orders, Patterns of Safety Violations) in the previous six years.
  • Not have a crash rate above the national average.
  • Not have a driver OOS rate above the national average.
  • Not have a vehicle OOS rate above the national average.

What are the main challenges facing truck driving apprenticeship programs?

During the truck driving apprenticeship, drivers are able to transport goods across state lines. But they may only do so with an experienced driver supervising from the passenger seat. The supervising driver must be at least 26 years old, with a minimum of five years of interstate experience. Commercial fleets will need to provide incentives to the supervising drivers to sit in the passenger seat instead for those trips.

Motor carriers participating in the SDAP program must also report monthly to the FMCSA until the drivers reach the age of 21. The FMCSA expects to hear within 24 hours if there’s an injury, a fatal crash involving an apprentice, or an alcohol-related citation. 

Examples of trucking companies with apprenticeship programs

Even before the SDAP, many trucking companies had apprenticeship programs. The difference is that this new pilot program has specific requirements for a probationary period and safety technology to train young drivers in interstate commerce.

Learn more about paid CDL training opportunities in our article on what commercial drivers need to know about this option.

How Motive can help you meet the SDAP’s technology requirements and train new drivers with confidence

The SDAP requires carriers to train new drivers and provide vehicle safety tools. Both are part of the Motive fleet management software solution.

The Motive AI Dashcam meets SDAP criteria while supporting safety efforts and making driver coaching programs more effective. The dash cam lets you see things from the driver’s perspective. Recordings of critical driver behaviors such as hard braking, hard cornering, or excessive acceleration can also be used in driver coaching programs.

Training new drivers is easier with Motive’s turnkey coaching workflow, which automatically pinpoints driving behaviors that require coaching and provides relevant videos and coaching history to help personalize timely feedback.

Drivers can also view dash cam videos at the end of a trip in the Motive Driver App to receive automated coaching. The integrated driver coaching software also lets you proactively manage safety events, tag drivers with different coaching statuses, leave notes, and simplify driver training. The DRIVE risk score tracks the impact of coaching over time, taking into account the context and severity of every safety event.

The Motive Driver App provides easy access to driver logs and other documentation, which can help with SDAP reporting to the FMCSA. 

Get ready to do your part in the SDAP with Motive technology. Ask for a demo today.