Under-21 Driver Pilot Program Raises Carrier Reporting Concerns

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While trucking industry trade groups have expressed support for a federal apprenticeship program that will train under-21 drivers to operate tractor-trailers across state lines, concerns are being raised that some of the initiative’s reporting requirements for motor carriers are overly burdensome.

In particular, both American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association said in comments filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that data collection requirements outlined for the pilot program could slow down its implementation.

The pilot, expected to get underway in a few months, will allow young intrastate truck drivers and their motor carriers to enroll in a program that will require training and close monitoring for the young drivers to cross state lines, with an experienced driver sitting with them in the cab during training.

FMCSA-2022 by Transport Topics

Comments from the trucking groups and others were filed in response to a Jan. 7 FMCSA Federal Register information collection request.

FMCSA has requested lightning-speed approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget of its request. While the agency’s request allowed only five days for public comment, OMB has not yet acted on it.

In its information request, FMCSA estimated data collection for the pilot would require 20 minutes per response for carrier, apprentice and experienced driver application forms; 15 minutes per response for safety benchmark certifications; 60 minutes per month per driver for monthly driving and safety data; and 90 minutes per month for miscellaneous data submission.

“The draft information collection request may create unnecessary administrative burdens and/or prevent or delay small and medium- sized motor carriers from participating in the program, limiting the success of the program, potentially significantly,” ATA said in its comments. “Every additional burden placed on motor carriers may reduce the number participating.”

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TCA said, “We must note our concern with the monthly frequency of the reporting required of the carrier, as well as the vast amounts of data that must be supplied through these reports. While the statutory language grants the Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to request data relating to the safety of apprentices aged 18 to 20 years operating in interstate commerce, we fear that the breadth of data outlined in the Information Collection Request will present an undue burden to carriers.”

Omaha, Neb.-based carrier Werner Enterprises Inc. cautioned that information collection could be “voluminous without some limitations,” and suggested that such constraints will “help to strengthen the impact of collected data.”

The Drive Safe Coalition said it supported the program, but suggested that a requirement for additional data to be submitted monthly to FMCSA should be limited to include “only those elements that are essential in evaluating the safety impact of the young drivers.”

The coalition added, “Allowing younger commercial drivers to operate across state lines and transport interstate freight if they meet heightened training and safety equipment requirements will provide a real opportunity to address current and future truck driver shortages.”

TCA pointed specifically to some of the granularity proposed with data monitoring as another concern.

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“In particular, the requirement to supply ‘safety event data (as recorded by all safety systems installed on vehicles, to include advanced driver assistance systems, automatic emergency braking systems, onboard monitoring systems, and forward-facing and in-cab video systems),’ will be very difficult to satisfy, particularly for smaller carriers that do not have an extensive staff to handle this reporting,” the group said.

Despite its concerns, ATA pledged its support for the initiative.

“While we believe the data collection is too broad and registered apprenticeship mandate may prevent broad participation, ATA and its members will promote the program and looks forward to assisting FMCSA in supporting the program,” the federation said.


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