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Teenage Drivers, Should They Be Allowed to Drive Big Rigs?

by | Semi-Trucks, Teens and driving, Truck Crashes

The pandemic resulted in a global supply chain challenge for many Americans. To add insult to injury, the trucking industry has had to face another obstacle; the demand for truck drivers. Several reports state that we need approximately 80,000 more drivers to deliver our food, clothing, gas, and necessities such as baby diapers, toilet paper, and parts for our manufacturing plants in America.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), Section 23022, requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to establish an apprenticeship pilot program. It will allow drivers between 18-20 years old with an intrastate commercial driver’s license to operate interstate commerce under particular conditions.

Before the program’s launch, the law stated that 18-to 20-year-olds could drive with proper licensing and regulations to deliver only within their states.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) program will allow 3,000 drivers from 18-to 20 years old to drive big rigs from State to State after completing probationary hours and strict monitoring once they obtain their CDL license. FMCSA established the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP) to meet this requirement.

This three-year program is considered an apprenticeship pilot program. Under the apprenticeship program, younger drivers will be accompanied by an instructor who teaches them the safety side of everything, making sure they are doing everything the way it’s supposed to be done when traveling from State to State. The young semi-truck drivers will still be allowed to travel alone within their state as they previously have.

What are a few of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program Requirements?

An apprentice may not participate in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program if, during the two years immediately preceding the date of hire, the driver:

  • Had more than one license (except for a military license);
  • Had his or her license suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified for a violation in any State;
  • Been convicted of any violations described below in any motor vehicle:
    • Had been under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by State law;
    • Had been under the influence of a controlled substance;
    • Had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater while operating a CMV;
    • Refused to take an alcohol test as required by a State under its implied consent laws or regulations.
    • Left the scene of a crash;
    • Used the vehicle to commit a felony;
    • Drove a CMV while his or her CDL is revoked, suspended, canceled; or they are disqualified from operating a CMV;
    • Caused a fatality through the negligent operation of a CMV (including motor vehicle manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle, or negligent homicide);
    • Had more than one conviction for any of the violations described below in any motor vehicle;
      • Drove recklessly, as defined by state or local law or regulation
      • Drove a CMV without the required CDL;
      • Violated a State or local law or ordinance on motor vehicle traffic control prohibiting texting while driving; or
      • Violated a State or local law or ordinance on motor vehicle traffic control restricting or prohibiting the use of a handheld mobile telephone while driving.

In addition, an apprentice may not transport passengers or hazardous materials or operate double or triple-trailer combinations or cargo tank vehicles while participating in the pilot program, regardless of any license endorsements held.

Why is semi-truck driving a questionable idea for teenage drivers?

A semi-truck falls under dangerous situations and abides by guidelines that benefit from a seasoned tractor-trailer driver with a CDL. Due to their age, they have benefited from life experiences that they utilize in daily truck driving. New or younger drivers increase the potential for an accident which is much more catastrophic in a commercial vehicle due to the truck’s massive size and weight. The injuries that accompany these accidents are more severe and often deadly. It can include spinal cord injuries, fractured bones, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, burns, internal organ injuries, or wrongful death.

Consider the following:

  • A fully loaded semi-truck is 22 times bigger than the average automobile. The weight of a tractor-trailer ranges from 35,000 pounds empty and 80,000 pounds fully loaded.
  • Semi-trailers are generally 53 feet long. However, the entire semi-truck is between 70 and 80 feet long when adding the cab’s length.
  • Most diesel engines put out 1,200 to 2,050 lb. per ft to keep the weight of the vehicle moving.
  • Because of their enormous size, the semi-truck has a long braking distance. It typically takes the length of two football fields for a big rig to come to a complete stop after the brakes are applied.
  • Overloaded and incorrectly loaded semi-trucks can cause fatalities. Far too often, trucks carry too much cargo or carry it incorrectly.
  • Truck drivers ignore federal law regulations and work incredibly long hours to meet their deadlines. 1 in 4 truck drivers have admitted to falling asleep while operating their vehicle, and fatigue is a significant factor in truck accidents.

Let’s discuss some of the positive features of this program and state some of the apparent negatives. Unfortunately, any failure of the (SDAP) will likely result in a life-altering consequence for those who are victims or families of victims.

Accidents can happen to any semi-truck driver, but the probability is very high that a young and inexperienced driver will be the culprit of the disaster.
After all, there is a reason that persons under 25 years of age pay more for automobile insurance.

Statistics state that, like most skills, learning to drive takes time, and effort, and as with most things, practice makes perfect.

Young drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors
when it comes to getting behind the wheel, teens are more likely to focus on something other than driving.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports 15 people are killed each day and about 1,200 injured due to distracted driving crashes.

U.S. Government reports that 9 percent of drivers under the age of 20 involved in a fatal accident were engaged in distracting behavior during the crash.

What are some of the positives to allowing this change in semi-truck deliveries?

Crossing state lines will not only assist in the supply vs. demand we have witnessed on our food and supplies. We need an increase in products on the shelf, but also manufacturers and factories need their supplies delivered to continue to be productive.

The lack of products and supplies has caused a trickle-down effect. It is increasing every product and service we need and use.

This program could assist in cutting family expenses and keep America working at their jobs without forced layoffs or the lack of business and customers.

Another benefit is that young adults who choose to make truck driving their career will have an opportunity to do a “paid internship” and receive a hands-on education. Hopefully, it will assist with the decline in accidents and the fatality rate.

The Truck Accident Law Firm believes in educating everyone on the road and being a part of reducing semi-truck accidents. Therefore, we will continue following the progress and the results of the statistic of this new program and keep you informed.

Truck crash cases are all we focus on at The Truck Accident Law Firm. Our attorneys have been to truck driving school and obtained a CDL as part of our becoming Certified Truck Accident Attorneys. We sincerely believe almost every commercial vehicle crash is preventable and it is our goal to make the roads safer for everyone through educational efforts.

Our team has litigated hundreds of truck accident cases in federal and state courts, and we have obtained over $100 Million in verdicts and settlements for our clients.

Trust, Compassion, and Results that is what we are made of.

We would like to hear your response and opinion on allowing this change, which could be putting safety secondary to attempting to alleviate the supply and demand situation. Please leave a comment on our Instagram page or, FaceBook page.

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