Learn to Drive Safe Pilot Program

Motor carriers interested in participating in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Learner Driver Safety Pilot Program can now apply to be accepted into the program.

FMCSA announced the creation of its apprenticeship pilot program in January 2022, as required by the infrastructure employment and investment laws.

On July 25, FMCSA hosted an informational webinar for those interested in participating and/or learning more about the program.

Who is eligible, what is required and a general overview of the program were part of the session.

Attendees were also able to ask questions of FMCSA and U.S. Department of Labor officials who presented during the webinar.

Main requirements of the apprenticeship program

To participate in the program, a learner driver must be 18, 19 or 20 years old, hold a commercial driver’s license and be employed by a licensed carrier.

The learner driver must complete two probationary periods with an experienced driver. This experienced driver must be at least 26 years old with five years of experience in interstate commerce and have had no travel violations or preventable accidents in the past two years.

The first trial period must include 120 hours of service and at least 80 hours of driving, while the second includes 280 hours of service and at least 160 hours of driving.

Learner drivers are prohibited from driving commercial vehicles with passengers, hazardous materials and special configurations. Additionally, apprentices are not permitted to drive a commercial vehicle weighing more than 80,000 pounds.

Motor carrier requirements include appropriate operating authority, a minimum level of financial responsibility, an accident rate below the national average, and no open enforcement actions in the previous six years, to name a few. some.

Motor carriers must also be registered with the Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program.

A complete list of requirements is available on the FMCSA Safe Driver website.

Finally, commercial vehicles driven by apprentices under the program must be equipped with an on-board monitoring system with forward and cabin-facing cameras, an automatic or automated manual transmission and an on-board monitoring system. active collision mitigation under braking, and must be governed at 65 mph at the pedal and in adaptive cruise.

Application process

FMCSA is now accepting online applications from motor carriers interested in participating in the apprenticeship program, which is expected to last a maximum of three years (until July 2025).

Part of this application process will include providing information on driver turnover as well as the compensation structure.

Before a motor carrier enrolls a learner driver in the program, it must enroll an experienced driver, the FMCSA said.

The agency is looking for up to 1,000 motor carriers and 3,000 apprentices to participate in the program. Once the number of 3,000 is reached, future apprentices will be added as drivers age or leave the program.

According to Nicole Michel, FMCSA Program Manager, Office Search and Registration, motor carriers can expect a 30-day review process once they submit their application online. This exam period is subject to change.

Following approval, motor carriers will be required to attend a future webinar. This session will only be for approved carriers and will provide more specific information about participating in the program.

FMCSA Q&A Session

How the FMCSA will draw conclusions about safety was among the top questions asked.

“We want to make this program as safe as possible and ensure it meets the current level of safety on our roads,” said Michel. “Much of the technology required for learner drivers is very common in the industry today.”

Nikki McDavid, FMCSA division chief in the Office of Safety, said the FMCSA has the authority to fire people or shut down the pilot program if it determines that safety precautions are not being followed.

Questions on subsidies, tax credits, recruitment and selection of experienced drivers were also addressed.

McDavid said there were no government funds available to employers participating in the program and no tax credits were in place to help with the rising cost of insurance.

However, Jamie Bennett, a program analyst for the US Department of Labor, said employers should contact Fastport — the Department of Labor’s transportation and logistics intermediary — to see what resources are available to them.

Recruitment of learner drivers will be the responsibility of the motor carrier.

Experienced drivers will be screened upon acceptance into the program by FMCSA. However, it will be the carrier’s responsibility to report any violations in the future. The FMCSA will not review pilots on a regular basis.

A list of accepted motor carriers will be available on the FMCSA website.

At the moment, there is no deadline to submit an application.

The entire FMCSA informational webinar is available here. LL

Ryan H. Bowman