Federal program to allow teenagers to drive big rigs

A pilot program, proposed by the federal government, would allow teenagers to drive tractor-trailers across state lines.

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Current law dictates that truckers who cross state lines have to be at least 21 years old, but the apprenticeship program proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would allow 18-to-20-year-olds to travel outside their home states, The Associated Press reported.

Under the program, which can last up to three years, up to 3,000 young truckers at one time will be required to complete 400 hours of cumulative probationary driving time with an experienced driver in the passenger seat, The New York Times reported. After that, the young driver will be allowed to drive alone, but will be subject to monitoring. Young drivers will have to be in trucks that have an electronic braking crash mitigation system, a forward facing video camera, and will not be allowed to drive faster than 65 mph, The Associated Press reported.

Before moving forward, the program must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget before applications can be made available, CBS News reported.

The American Trucking Associations said it supports the program because of a nationwide shortage of drivers, telling The Associated Press that the nation is running an estimated 80,000 drivers short.

The program was initially proposed in 2020, but is now being reintroduced as part of a new infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden on Nov. 15, The New York Times reported.

Some safety advocates are wary, saying that lowering the age limit for drivers fails to address larger issues facing drivers, including grueling work schedules and inadequate safety technology, that lead to higher turnovers and fewer drivers, The New York Times reported.

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