HARRISBURG, Pa. — If you spend a lot of time driving on highways, be prepared to see more teens behind the wheels of semi-trucks. The U.S. greenlighted an apprenticeship program that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds to drive big rigs outside their home states.
Currently, only truckers who are 21 and older are allowed to cross state lines.
Iyona McFadden, 21, who received her driver's license six months ago, said the program poses safety risks.
"I don't think 18-year-olds should be driving semi-trucks across state lines...because younger drivers, they tend to get into more car crashes, they pay attention less," said McFadden.
The initiative is a part of President Joe Biden's infrastructure bill in an effort to alleviate the supply chain backlog and fill the truck driver shortage. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry is lacking at least 80,000 drivers.
In a statement to FOX43, the American Trucking Association said:
“This bipartisan program will – with unprecedented training and technology requirements to improve safety for everyone – give a small number of those already licensed younger Americans the right to move goods from state to state. Far from hurting safety, this program will raise the bar for safety far above and beyond what is currently required." - Nick Geale, The American Trucking Association.
The Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association (PMTA) is also in full support.
"We're really excited at PMTA," said Brandon Moore, the organization's Director of Communications. "An 18-year-old already has the right to vote, he already has the right to sign up to serve his country, and currently, he also has the ability to drive from Philadelphia to Erie, but not across the river to New Jersey. The logic behind that didn't make sense."
Only 3,000 teens will be allowed into the pilot program. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will screen them for tickets and other violations prior to being accepted.
Under the apprenticeship program:
- Drivers can cross state lines during the 120-hour or 280-hour probationary period.
- Trucks used must have an electronic braking crash mitigation system.
- Trucks must have a forward-facing video camera.
- Truck speeds must be 65 mph.
The program will run for three years, and Congress requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to begin it within 60 days.