One of the biggest ongoing problems throughout the Biden administration’s first year in office has been the supply chain crisis. Part of that crisis is a lack of truck drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created a program to help recruit and train more young truck drivers but is set to ruin its own well-intentioned plan with — you guessed it — bureaucracy.
The FMCSA began the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program to ramp up the training and hiring of truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21. Getting more drivers onto the roads is a great idea, especially if they’re properly trained, but the FMCSA is also requiring these young would-be truckers to enroll in a Department of Labor apprenticeship program as well. The additional apprenticeship adds to the training costs for a young person who wants a career driving a truck.
FreightWaves reports that the trucking industry has advocated against the DOL internship requirement, but the administration has refused to listen to them.
“In comments filed with FMCSA earlier this year, ATA [American Trucking Associations] noted that while it supports both the FMCSA and DOL apprenticeships, many carriers may not want to sign up for the DOL program because of the added costs,” John Gallagher writes at FreightWaves. “ATA also pointed out that requiring carriers to sign on to the DOL apprenticeship in order to be part of FMCSA pilot was not required under the federal infrastructure law authorizing FMCSA’s program.”
Naturally, the response from the FMCSA sounds more like a labor union than a governmental organization.
“FMCSA maintains that a registered apprenticeship with DOL is an important step in the safety and monitoring oversight of the SDAP to minimize the risk of apprentice drivers experiencing coercion, unfair wages, or other practices that could lead to unsafe behaviors from apprentice drivers,” the agency responded.
In other words, the Biden administration believes that it must charge these young kids even more money and bureaucratic hoops before they can get out on the road to help relieve the supply chain crisis that’s affecting all Americans.
Other organizations made recommendations that the FMCSA also threw out.
“FMCSA also rejected a series of joint recommendations by the Truck Safety Coalition, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers,” Gallagher points out. “The groups wanted FMCSA to increase the requirement that drivers serving as apprentice trainers have five consecutive years with no safety violations or crashes, up from two years under the current program.”
The feds also refused safety measures like clearly marking a truck when a student driver is behind the wheel on the open road and increasing the minimum rate of liability insurance for younger truck drivers.
Why is the FMCSA turning down ideas from concerned safety organizations and the trucking industry (you know, those who really know what’s going on with their drivers)? They have to beat the clock.
The feds are fast-tracking this program because the deadline from the Office of Management and Budget is July 31, and the FMCSA is running out of time. So naturally, everything has to be done the administration’s way with less concern for safety or for how much young truckers would pay out of pocket for their training and federally-mandated apprenticeship. In this case, it’s their way before the highway, even if it doesn’t make sense.