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Reviving the Drive: Legislation Aims to Get Younger Generation Behind the Wheel

New Drivers & New Businesses

In an effort to combat the ongoing truck driver shortage in the United States, lawmakers are taking steps to bring the younger generation into the world of trucking.

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP) in 2022. The primary objective of this three-year initiative is to open doors for individuals aged 18, 19, and 20 to explore careers in interstate trucking while simultaneously assisting trucking companies in recruiting and training new drivers.

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Understanding the Truck Driver Shortage

The trucking industry is currently grappling with a shortage of more than 78,000 truck drivers, and the need to hire 1.2 million new drivers over the next decade looms large, driven by increasing freight demands, as reported by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The Hurdles Faced by the SDAP

While the SDAP was envisioned as a potential solution to the truck driver shortage, its implementation has faced considerable challenges. Despite having the capacity to accommodate up to 3,000 drivers at any given time, the program has seen fewer than a dozen enrollees. This underwhelming response is largely attributed to additional requirements imposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which were not originally included in the legislation.

A Legislative Push to Revive the SDAP

Recognizing the urgency of getting the SDAP back on track, Congressmen Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) have taken proactive measures. They have called upon the DOT to implement corrective actions aimed at increasing participation in the SDAP. Additionally, the DOT has been mandated to provide comprehensive reports to Congress regarding the status of the SDAP and the measures taken to enhance participation.

These proposed changes direct the Secretary of Transportation to work towards establishing regulations that would allow commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers aged 18 to 20 to operate across state lines, provided that data does not indicate these individuals drive less safely than their older counterparts in the IIJA pilot program.

Support for a Stronger Trucking Workforce

ATA President and CEO Chris Spear underscored the importance of building a 21st-century supply chain with a robust and growing trucking workforce. On March 28, 2023 he provided thoughts in testimony on Unleashing America’s Opportunities for Hiring and Employment. The proposed updates to the SDAP are anticipated to create new career pathways into interstate trucking, all while maintaining stringent safety and training standards, surpassing those set by states.

In essence, Congressmen Crawford and Cuellar's legislative efforts offer a timely and vital solution to address the workforce and supply chain challenges that the trucking industry faces. By steering the SDAP back towards its original course and facilitating a pathway for young talent to safely enter the industry, this bill aims to ensure that the trucking sector has the skilled personnel needed to meet the growing freight demands of the economy in the years to come.


The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program represents a significant step towards resolving the truck driver shortage in the United States. As lawmakers work diligently to overcome the challenges that have hindered its effectiveness, the future of the trucking industry holds promise. With the support of initiatives like the SDAP, we can foster a new generation of truck drivers, ensuring that the wheels of our nation's economy continue to turn smoothly and efficiently.

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