The trucking industry is constantly undergoing rule changes at the state and federal level. In November 2022, an infrastructure bill that would apply significant changes to the trucking industry was signed into law.
One of those changes requires implementing an apprenticeship program that lowers the age limit for truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license from 21 to 18. Some critics of the new rules argue this could increase the likelihood of truck accidents.
If you were injured in an accident, call our auto collision attorneys in South Bend today. We can discuss your claim during a free consultation to determine what legal options may be available to you.
Why Were Age Restrictions Loosened in the Trucking Industry?
The trucking industry has a longstanding record of driver shortages. The mandates implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these existing issues. Then there was the supply chain crisis that further backed up shipping logs despite most states easing COVID-19 restrictions.
Despite these ongoing issues, consumer demand for shipped goods did not stop. This led industry leaders and regulators to look for new solutions. One of those solutions was to lower the age of eligibility for driving a truck across state lines from 21 to 18.
What Are the New Rules?
Every year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) release new and updated rules. Prior to the latest changes, only commercially licensed truck drivers over the age of 21 could take a truck across state lines. That said, some states already had rules in place that would allow 18-year-olds to drive big rigs within state lines.
In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FMSCA proposed a pilot program to allow 18-year-olds with a state-issued commercial driver’s license to be trained for crossing state lines. However, the pilot program was not approved that year.
The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act signed into law in November, however, required the creation of the apprenticeship. The new rules went into effect in 2023.
This Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program requires 18-year-olds to drive a minimum of 400 hours under the supervision of an experienced truck driver who:
- Is at least 26 years old
- Has five years of experience driving a semi-truck
- Has two years of incident-free driving (no tickets or crashes)
Even after meeting the required probationary hours, drivers must continue to submit monthly reports until they turn 21.
What Are the Hazards of Younger Drivers?
Despite the precautions taken in the apprentice program, critics of the new rule raise safety concerns about letting teenagers get behind the wheel of a big rig.
Data show that drivers under 20 years of age are four times more likely than older drivers to get into a car crash. There are two major factors that may contribute to the increased risk of a collision for teen drivers.
Younger Drivers Lack Experience
Teenagers cannot obtain a driving permit until at least the age of 16 and three months in Indiana. That means someone who is 18 years old only has about two years of experience behind the wheel. Since the age limit for a commercial driver’s license is 18, these drivers have zero years of experience driving big rigs.
Although younger people may have more energy than older drivers, their lack of experience with long work hours could make it more difficult to stay awake. Since these apprentice drivers will have someone in the cabin with them on these long drives, it could make them comfortable handing the wheel over when they do get tired. Therefore, when they are finally on their own, they may not be able to handle staying awake for an extended period.
Statistics also indicate that younger drivers are more likely to drive in a reckless manner. Tight deadlines could make these drivers take unnecessary risks that may result in a collision.
Younger Drivers Are More Likely to Get Distracted
Younger drivers are more likely to use a cell phone while driving. In addition to their lack of experience behind the wheel, this makes for a potentially deadly combination.
Driving while distracted in a small vehicle is dangerous. However, doing this while in a large semi-truck only increases the potential threat. When drivers are distracted, it is easy to veer off the road or into another lane. The jerking of the steering wheel in a semi-truck could cause cargo to shift, potentially resulting in a rollover.
Call an Experienced Attorney Today
If you were injured in an accident with a truck or other commercial vehicle, you may be eligible for significant compensation.
Our lawyers have decades of experience handling cases like these and have successfully recovered millions on behalf of our clients.
We can discuss your claim during a free consultation, and there are no hourly fees for our services. You only pay us when we win.
Call (844) 678-1800 today to learn more.