The federal government is moving forward with a plan to allow teenagers to drive large trucks from state to state in a test program.
According to an ABC News report, truck drivers who currently operate big rigs across state lines must be at least 21 years old. However, an apprenticeship program required by Congress to help ease supply chain backlogs would allow 18- to 20-year-olds to drive large trucks outside their home states.
This pilot program is detailed in a proposed rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that would essentially screen the teens barring any with DUI violations or traffic tickets for causing a crash.
However, safety advocates say the program runs counter to data that shows younger drivers are involved in more crashes compared to older ones. They say it might also be less than prudent to allow teens to be responsible for large trucks and rigs that could weigh about 80,000 pounds and cause catastrophic damage when they hit smaller passenger vehicles.
Teens Drivers of Large Trucks: How the Program Will Work
The apprenticeship pilot program was required by Congress as part of the infrastructure bill signed into law on Nov. 15. The American Trucking Associations, which is an industry trade group, supports this program saying that it will help with the nationwide shortage of truck drivers.
The group estimates that the nation is running more than 80,000 drivers short of the number it needs at a time when the demand to move freight is reaching 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.
The large trucks used in this program must have an electronic braking crash mitigation system and a forward-facing video camera. Also, their speeds must be limited to 65 mph. The younger drivers can operate on their own once they complete probation. However, companies must monitor their performance until they turn 21.
Potential Safety Concerns
As truck accident attorneys, we are concerned about this new federal regulation, which is aimed at getting more truck drivers on the road to improve supply chain issues. Driving an 80,000-pound truck is no mean task. It can be a challenge even for experienced drivers to navigate bad weather, heavy traffic as well as fatigue as they cross state lines to deliver a variety of goods. Accidents involving large trucks can be deadly.
Some of the common causes of truck accidents include drunk driving, distracted driving, fatigue, driving at an unsafe speed, and mechanical malfunctions. We are truly concerned about how young adults will deal with these challenges and how that might adversely affect everyone on our roadways.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, please remember that you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. An experienced California truck accident lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.