Younger drivers behind the wheel? A look at SDAP

Individuals ages 18, 19, and 20 may soon be able to drive big rigs across state lines to deliver goods beyond their home states. As part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP), young drivers will soon have a new pathway to participate in interstate commerce and trucking companies will have a new pool from which to hire and train drivers.


Currently, the law requires truck drivers be at least 21 to cross state lines. Through SDAP, the teens will be screened to make sure they don’t have any driving-while-impaired violations or traffic tickets.


Under the apprenticeship program, younger drivers can cross state lines during 120-hour and 280-hour probationary periods — as long as an experienced CDL driver is in the passenger seat. According to The Trucker, trucks used in the program must have an electronic braking crash-mitigation system and a forward-facing video camera, and their speeds must be limited to 65 mph.


Once these young drivers successfully complete the probationary periods, they will be allowed to cross state lines on their own — but their carriers must monitor their performance until they are 21. No more than 3,000 apprentices can take part in the training at any given time.


The program will run for up to three years, and each participating motor carrier must turn in a report to Congress analyzing the safety record of the teen drivers and making a recommendation noting whether the younger drivers are as safe as those 21 or older. In the future, Congress could expand the program with new laws.


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a forum for a public comment period regarding SDAP. The comment period ends on June 17 and commenters can click here to participate.