Trucking Apprenticeship Opportunities

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Overview

Trucking is one of the most in-demand jobs in the United States today. Professional truck drivers find a widely accessible career path to the middle-class without the requirements of a costly, four-year college degree. Truck technicians are also highly compensated for their skills and in high-demand for the industry.

Estimates show the industry now short more than 80,000 drivers needed to meet the economy's current freight demands. Apprenticeships can help fill that gap by combining paid, on-the-job training and instruction to prepare new drivers for these high-skill careers.

There are many apprenticeship programs available throughout the U.S. trucking industry. This page explores some of the resources available to:

  • Prospective drivers and technicians looking to begin their careers in trucking; 
  • Motor carriers seeking to establish an apprenticeship program; and
  • Exiting military servicemembers wanting to transition into trucking.

Prospective Drivers and Technicians 

Driver apprenticeships are an opportunity to receive on the job training with career progression at no out-of-pocket cost. By becoming an apprentice, you can obtain paid, relevant industry experience while acquiring the skills and credentials that trucking companies value. Some apprenticeships require prior receipt of your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), but others include that opportunity as part of the training. 

The registered apprenticeship program, overseen by the US Department of Labor, is considered by many to be the gold star of workforce development programs, and ATA has been approved as a program sponsor for registered apprenticeships by US DOL.

The following motor carriers have recently registered apprenticeship programs through the American Trucking Associations.  Additional details will be forthcoming, but interested apprentices are encouraged to visit their web pages to learn more about the companies and contact information for their apprenticeship programs:

A number of ATA Members have independent registered apprenticeship programs:

You can also find more apprenticeship openings near you for trucking or otherwise at apprenticeship.gov


Motor Carriers 

Apprenticeship programs are an excellent way for companies to attract and retain the next generation of trucking talent. In addition, motor carriers that offer apprenticeships are eligible to participate in the U.S.  Department of Transportation’s new Safe Driver Program, which empowers 18-20-year-old drivers to cross state lines following the successful completion of a rigorous training regimen defined in law.  

These registered programs come with a number of potential benefits for carriers above and beyond the talent acquisition and retention aspect, including tax credits in many states (State Tax Credits and Tuition Support | Apprenticeship.gov) and potential training subsidies and/or support for apprentices (GI Bill Benefit housing allowance for veterans, child care for parents while training). Additional details on federal benefits for motor carriers are available here on apprenticeship.gov. State apprenticeship agencies (see below) may have additional benefits for carriers registering at the state level.

Below are options available to motor carriers interested in registered apprenticeship programs.

ATA-Administered Programs

In March of 2022, the American Trucking Associations was formally recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as an apprenticeship program sponsor for heavy truck drivers. This gives ATA-member companies the option to offer apprenticeships to job applicants while ATA and its partner FASTPORT—a USDOL intermediary specializing in transportation and logistics—administer the program. Participation is subject to certain minimum program requirements set by USDOL and/or USDOT (such as entry-level driver training and wage progression over time).

To learn more about creating an apprenticeship program for your company through ATA, contact apprenticeships@trucking.org.

Applications and related documents can be found here. (Click on DOWNLOAD ALL. You will be prompted for your ATA Member username and password. If you have an issue accessing the documents or need an account created, please contact ATA Membership Department at atamembership@trucking.org.) If you are not an ATA member, learn more about joining here.

DOL-Registered Programs

Motor carriers who wish to administer their own apprenticeship programs can register through USDOL with assistance from USDOL’s intermediary FASTPORT. Learn more at apprenticeship.gov.

State-Registered Programs

Twenty-seven states have apprenticeship offices and administer apprenticeship programs at the state level, through which motor carriers can register to participate. Often there are additional requirements and benefits from state programs.  

Motor carriers may also want to register nationally with USDOL through ATA or independently also to ensure broad access to federal benefits and national recognition of their programs.  A number of states grant reciprocal registration in their states if you have federal registration.  To view a list of states with such programs, visit Apprenticeship System | Apprenticeship.gov.

ATA’s driver program is currently cross-registered with Louisiana and we will be adding other states over time.

Safe Driver Under-21 Apprenticeship Program

In 49 states plus the District of Columbia, 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds are permitted to obtain a CDL and drive heavy-duty commercial vehicles within state lines, but federal regulations have long prohibited those same drivers participating in interstate commerce. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 recently signed into law includes a nationwide pilot program to train commercial drivers under the age of 21 to cross state lines. The program is capped at 3,000 participating drivers at any one time.  

USDOT is till finalizing the program and we expect it to open soon.  The dedicated web page for the program is here: Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program | FMCSA (dot.gov).

For a motor carrier to participate, they must have a registered apprenticeship program through USDOL, their state agency, or ATA. A separate application into the Safe Driver program is also required, in addition to the following prerequisites:

  1. Participating apprentices must be between 18-20 and hold an existing commercial driver’s license (or be in the process of obtaining one) to join the program.  
     
  2. All apprentice drivers must use specific equipment including an automatic manual or automatic transmission; an active braking collision mitigation system; a forward-facing video event capture system; and a governed speed of 65 miles per hour— at the pedal and under adaptive cruise control. 
     
  3. Until they graduate, apprentices must be accompanied by an experienced driver when they are developing their skills and driving in interstate commerce. The legislation defines experienced drivers as someone 26 or older, with five years of experience and no points on their license for moving violations or at fault accidents for the last 2 years.
     
  4. The training requirements for the apprentices total 400 hours broken down as follows: 
     

• 120-Hour Probationary Period. First, the apprentice must complete 120 hours of “on-duty time,” 80 hours of which must be “driving time”. During the 80 hours of “driving time,” the apprentice may drive a truck in interstate commerce, but only when accompanied by an experienced driver. 

Performance Benchmarks required to be demonstrated include interstate, city traffic, rural two lanes, and evening driving; safety awareness; speed and space management; lane control, mirror scanning, and right and left turns; and logging and complying with hours of service.
 
280-Hour Probationary Period. Second, the apprentice must complete 280 hours of “on-duty time,”160 hours of which must be “driving time”. During the 160 hours of “driving time,” the apprentice may drive a truck in interstate commerce, but only when accompanied by an experienced driver.  

Performance Benchmarks required to be demonstrated include backing and maneuvering in close quarters; pre-trip inspections; fueling procedures; weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems; coupling and uncoupling procedures; and trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation, and permits.


Participating motor carriers will need to set up record keeping processes and provide USDOT monthly with data to ensure full compliance, and there are certain restrictions. For example, apprentice participants may not transport passengers or hazardous cargo or operate a special configuration vehicle or a vehicle with a gross weight over 80,000 pounds. Also, make sure your insurance policy covers these drivers as they train and graduate.  

DRAFT copies of the forms that DOT is expected to use when the program formally starts to register motor carriers, apprentices and experienced drivers are available below:


Military Veterans

The trucking industry is committed to hiring our nation’s heroes and providing them with a seamless transition from military service to successful careers. Learn more about the opportunities trucking offers Veterans: