It’s no secret that the trucking industry is in trouble. Veteran drivers are retiring, and nobody is stepping up to take their place. This has triggered a dramatic response from the trucking industry. Over the past few years, they’ve successfully lobbied to reduce the training requirements needed to earn a commercial driver's license (CDL). Deadly truck accidents have increased as a result.
Now they have a new policy that aims to put more young, inexperienced truck drivers on the road. But will these new trucking policies make the roads safer or cause even more crashes?
The Safe Driver Apprenticeship
The new policy in question is known as the “Safe Driver Apprenticeship Program,” and it seeks to address one very specific problem but does so in a way with wide-reaching implications. Currently, 18-year-old drivers can earn their commercial driver’s license and operate a semi-truck, but only within their home state. They need to be 21-years-old before they can take the vehicle across state lines.
The new program would allow drivers under 21 to cross state lines if their vehicle has the proper safety equipment and also has an experienced truck driver sitting in the passenger seat. In this case, an experienced truck driver means someone over the age of 26 with at least five years of interstate commercial driving experience and zero traffic violations in the past two years.
This would be a true apprenticeship, one where the older driver takes a back seat and imparts their knowledge onto the next generation through practical applications and traffic situations.
Under this program, young truck drivers can eventually graduate to interstate access with a total of 400 hours of supervised driving with performance benchmarks in between.
Cause and Effect
On paper, this seems like a great idea. Currently, there is no requirement that drivers applying for their CDL have classroom theory hours. After the written test (which requires an 80% to pass), they are only required to have 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training before taking their final driving exam. This apprenticeship program would give young drivers an additional 400 training hours and would do so with the help of an experienced guide and modern safety equipment.
Truck accident fatalities have gone up in correlation to a rise in inexperienced truck drivers. This new program, if successful, might pave the way in reducing these accidents. While these limitations are designed for young drivers, it begs the question as to whether all new truck drivers should be subjected to the apprenticeship program.
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