Press Release

Congress Strengthens Truck Driver Apprenticeship Program

Mar 08, 2024

Washington — Today, leaders of the DRIVE Safe Coalition applauded House and Senate passage of the fiscal year 2024 transportation funding bill, which included a provision championed by coalition co-chairs American Trucking Associations and International Foodservice Distributors Association to help get the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program back on track.
“Building a 21st century supply chain requires a strong, vibrant and growing trucking workforce,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.  “The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program was intended to bolster new career pathways into interstate trucking while promoting safety and training standards that far exceed the bar set by states today.  Unfortunately, burdensome and unnecessary requirements imposed by FMCSA sharply limited enrollment.   By directing FMCSA to steer the program back to the course Congress originally intended, the appropriations provision ATA secured will provide a path for young drivers to safely enter the workforce and help ensure our industry has the talent it needs to meet the economy’s freight demands in the years to come.”

“Attracting and retaining the next generation of talent is one of the foodservice distribution industry's top priorities,” said Mark S. Allen, President and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association. “We thank House and Senate appropriators for their bipartisan work to restore the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program to its original intent and increase opportunities for qualified younger drivers to receive rigorous training and safely enter the foodservice distribution workforce.” 

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 in intrastate commerce, but federal rules have long prohibited those same drivers from driving in interstate commerce.
The bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in 2021 included a nationwide pilot program to create a pathway for these younger drivers to operate in interstate commerce with rigorous safety and training guardrails.  The apprenticeship program was capped at 3,000 participating drivers at any one time; however, to date, three dozen have enrolled. 
This lack of participation is partly due to extraneous program requirements that go beyond those prescribed in statute.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) required participating motor carriers to register their apprenticeship programs with the U.S. Department of Labor and equip their trucks with inward-facing cameras. 
In an effort to bolster participation, the appropriations provision championed by ATA and IFDA, and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, takes necessary corrective action to improve the pilot program in line with Congressional intent.