Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to strengthen truck driver apprenticeship program

WASHINGTON — Arkansas Republican Rep. Rick Crawford and Democratic Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar have introduced new legislation to help attract more truck drivers to the industry.

And already the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) are lauding the new measure, which has been dubbed the DRIVE Safey Integrity Act.

The bill builds on the DRIVE Safe Act over the last few Congresses and the inclusion of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)

“Building a 21st century supply chain requires a strong, vibrant and growing trucking workforce,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “The DRIVE Safe Integrity Act will bolster new career pathways into interstate trucking while promoting safety and training standards that far exceed the bar set by states today. This legislation offers a timely and essential trucking workforce and supply chain solution, built off years of broad bipartisan Congressional support.”

Mark S. Allen, president and CEO of IFDA, said that the last three years “have proven just how important truck drivers are to the American economy and way of life, and how urgently we need to develop a pipeline of qualified, well-trained professional drivers to meet our nation’s growing freight needs. Strengthening the ability of younger drivers to receive rigorous training and safely enter the trucking workforce will help fill this pipeline, and we thank Representatives Crawford and Cuellar for their bipartisan leadership in addressing this issue.”

According to the ATA, the trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of more than 78,000 truck drivers coupled with a need to hire 1.2 million new drivers over the next decade to meet increasing freight demands.

“U.S. Department of Transportation regulations bar a vital population of job seekers from interstate trucking, exacerbating the driver shortage as qualified candidates are lost to other industries,” an ATA news release stated. “In 49 states plus the District of Columbia, 18-20-year-olds are permitted to obtain a CDL and drive heavy-duty commercial vehicles in intrastate commerce, but federal rules have long prohibited those same drivers from driving in interstate commerce.”

To address this issue, the BIL law enacted in 2021 included a nationwide pilot program modeled after the DRIVE Safe Act to create a pathway for young drivers to operate interstate with rigorous safety and training guardrails in place.

The Save Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP) was capped at 3,000 participating drivers at any one time; however, fewer than a dozen driver participants have enrolled.

“This failure is partly due to extraneous USDOT requirements for program participation that were not included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” the ATA noted.

ATA officials also said that the DRIVE Safe Integrity Act would help get the pilot program back on track by urging DOT to take corrective actions that would improve participation in the SDAP and requiring DOT to provide Congress detailed reports on SDAP’s status and corrective actions taken to improve participation.

“By directing DOT to steer the SDAP back to the course Congress originally intended and providing a path forward for participants to safely enter the workforce, this bill will ensure our industry has the talent it needs to meet the economy’s freight demands in the years to come,” Spear said. “We thank Representatives Crawford and Cuellar for their outstanding leadership.”

Upon the sunset of the pilot program, the bill would direct DOT to review the safety data and issue regulations for a permanent apprenticeship program for commercial drivers between the ages of 18-20.

The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.


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