Tennessee truck accident lawyers break down the new teen apprenticeship program
The federal government recently launched a pilot program that will allow qualified teenagers to drive tractor-trailers and other big rigs across state lines in an effort to increase the number of licensed truck drivers, according to the Associated Press. According to the American Trucking Association, there’s a shortage of more than 80,000 truck drivers nationwide.
However, road safety advocates fear that such young, inexperienced truck drivers could end up causing more truck accidents. That’s because younger truck drivers statistically cause more accidents than older, more experienced drivers.
“This is no surprise to any American who drives a vehicle,” Peter Kurdock, general counsel for Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
What laws apply to young truck drivers?
Currently, all truck drivers must have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) and must be at least 21 years old in order to legally drive across state lines. However, that could change under a pilot program recently introduced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Under the FMCSA pilot program, a limited number of truck drivers 18 to 20 years old with a valid CDL will be able to drive across state lines. The apprentice program limits participation to 3,000 young truck drivers. The FMCSA created the program in response to supply chain backlogs, which have resulted in a truck driver shortage due to historic shipping demands.
As part of the pilot program, younger truck drivers must have an older truck driver with them at all times during a probationary period. They cannot drive over 65 mph. Trucks used by the younger drivers must also have certain, advanced safety features. Such features include a forward-facing video camera and an electronic braking crash mitigation system.
How often do inexperienced truckers cause crashes?
Numerous studies have found that younger, inexperienced truck drivers often cause more accidents than older, experienced drivers. One study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) found that the youngest truck drivers (drivers under 34 years old) caused 13 times more fatalities than drivers the same age driving passenger vehicles. In addition, the same DOT study found that motor vehicle fatalities decreased among older commercial truck drivers.
A similar recent study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s National Surface Transportation Safety Center found that inexperienced truck drivers caused more accidents than experienced truck drivers. In particular, truck drivers with less than one year of experience caused more collisions than all other truck drivers.
Why do young truck drivers cause collisions?
Young, inexperienced truck drivers cause crashes for many different reasons, including:
- Speeding, especially driving too fast during hazardous road conditions.
- Miscalculating distances between vehicles, often resulting in a rear-end truck crash.
- Misjudging dangerous situations, such as taking a curve too fast and causing a rollover accident.
These are just some of the reasons why accidents happen involving young truck drivers. The key takeaway should be that there are many ways for inexperienced truckers to cause crashes that result in severe injury or death.
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