Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Driver Apprenticeship Program

Sample article from our Government & Public Policy

May 17, 2023 (press release) –

May 17, 2023

Washington – Today, the American Trucking Associations and the International Foodservice Distributors Association applauded the introduction of the DRIVE Safe Integrity Act, introduced by Representatives Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), to help alleviate the truck driver workforce shortage. The bill builds upon strong, bipartisan support for the DRIVE Safe Act over the last few Congresses and the inclusion of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program in the bipartisan infrastructure law. 
 
“Building a 21st century supply chain requires a strong, vibrant and growing trucking workforce,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “The DRIVE Safe Integrity Act will bolster new career pathways into interstate trucking while promoting safety and training standards that far exceed the bar set by states today. This legislation offers a timely and essential trucking workforce and supply chain solution, built off years of broad bipartisan Congressional support.”

“The last three years have proven just how important truck drivers are to the American economy and way of life, and how urgently we need to develop a pipeline of qualified, well-trained professional drivers to meet our nation’s growing freight needs,” said Mark S. Allen, President and CEO of IFDA. “Strengthening the ability of younger drivers to receive rigorous training and safely enter the trucking workforce will help fill this pipeline, and we thank Representatives Crawford and Cuellar for their bipartisan leadership in addressing this issue.”

The trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of more than 78,000 truck drivers coupled with a need to hire 1.2 million new drivers over the next decade to meet increasing freight demands. However, current U.S. Department of Transportation regulations bar a vital population of job seekers from interstate trucking, exacerbating the driver shortage as qualified candidates are lost to other industries. 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. 

To address this issue, the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in 2021 included a nationwide pilot program modeled after the DRIVE Safe Act to create a pathway for young drivers to operate interstate with rigorous safety and training guardrails in place. The Save Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program was capped at 3,000 participating drivers at any one time; however, fewer than a dozen driver participants have enrolled.

This failure is partly due to extraneous USDOT requirements for program participation that were not included in the bipartisan infrastructure law. The DRIVE Safe Integrity Act would help get the pilot program back on track by: 
 

  • Urging DOT to take corrective actions that would improve participation in the SDAP; and 

 

  • Requiring DOT to provide Congress detailed reports on SDAP’s status and corrective actions taken to improve participation. 

 

“By directing DOT to steer the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program back to the course Congress originally intended and providing a path forward for participants to safely enter the workforce, this bill will ensure our industry has the talent it needs to meet the economy’s freight demands in the years to come,” Spear said. “We thank Representatives Crawford and Cuellar for their outstanding leadership.”       

Upon the sunset of the pilot program, the bill would direct DOT to review the safety data and issue regulations for a permanent apprenticeship program for commercial drivers between the ages of 18-20. 
 

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