If you work in the trucking industry, you are aware that truckers including drivers, fleet managers, owner-operators, logistics professionals, and other employees are just people with a strong desire to keep goods moving efficiently across the United States while making it an essential part of the American economy. This realization undoubtedly became more real after the Covid-19 and a historic volume of goods moving through our economy have strained capacity across the supply chain, including trucking.

With supply chain backlogs piling up, the United States is turning to people under 21 to help solve the problem. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put forth an initiative to expand the pool of drivers through the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot program (SDAP). A program designed to combat the worker shortage plaguing in the trucking industry.

For many teenage boys and girls, driving big machines has become a new career choice for the freedom and ownership of your time it gives you. If you recently lost your job and need steady work or if you’re finally achieving your lifelong ambition of driving a big rig. You’ll need to obtain your Class A commercial driver license (CDL) before hitting the open road.

But, how old do you need to be to become a truck driver? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, you’re not alone.

But the good thing is…

We conducted significant research on the age restrictions for you. You will learn about the new regulation and age that will allow you to drive trucks over state lines.

What Is Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP) And How It Allow 18-yrs To Drive:

You may find it overwhelming but it won’t be wrong to say that trucking has opened a door for many teenagers who look for freedom of time and ownership and even allows you to participate in self-exploration and identity formation.

In January 2022, FMCSA established the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP). This three-year program will help individuals ages 18, 19, and 20 explore interstate trucking careers and help trucking companies hire and train new drivers through an apprenticeship pilot program.

In addition, FMCSA will grant apprentice drivers approval to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce while they are under 21 years of age. During the pilot program’s probationary periods, apprentice drivers can operate in interstate commerce only when accompanied by a qualified, experienced driver in the passenger seat.

This is also a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Labor to increase the number of drivers on the road. According to the experts, this will check teen drivers to make sure they adhere to “strict safety standards” in order to prevent crashes, traffic tickets, or other driving violations.

Restrictions for Under-21 Apprentices In The Program

As this program ensure rigorous training standards and pairing each young driver with an experienced mentor and provides employers with a steady pipeline of skilled, safe, and experienced drivers, it has certain restrictions such as:

Key Rules for Apprentice Drivers

Under the program, apprentice drivers will not be permitted to transport passengers, hazardous materials, or drive double- or triple-trailer combinations or freight tankers, regardless of any license endorsements they hold.

Must-Have Equipment for Motor Carriers

The motor carrier must operate vehicles equipped with onboard monitoring systems
(OBMS) that include forward-facing and in-cab driver-facing cameras, an automatic or automatic manual transmission, and an active braking collision mitigation system.

Interstate Apprenticeship Guidelines

During the pilot program’s probationary periods, apprentice drivers can operate in interstate commerce only when accompanied by a qualified, experienced driver in the passenger seat.

Speed and Weight Limits for Apprentices

The Apprentice must drive at a governed speed of 65 miles per hour at the pedal and under adaptive cruise control and also have a weight limit of 80,000 pounds.

Supervisor Qualifications in the Apprentice Program

The experienced driver must be at least 26 years old and have at least five years of experience driving semi-trucks. The supervising driver is also required to have had two years of incident-free driving – no crashes or tickets – before training the new, younger driver.

Additionally, the government restricts some drivers from enrolling in the program, including those who have:

  • Had multiple licenses (apart from a military license)
  • Been found guilty of violating motor vehicle traffic control regulations (except parking offenses)
  • Had their license suspended, revoked, or canceled 3
  • Have been found guilty of drunken driving
  • Or used a car to commit a crime or fled the scene of an accident will not be allowed to participate in the program

Apprentice drivers will be permitted to drive across state lines during 120-hour and 280-hour probationary periods of which at least 80 hours are driving time in a CMV with an experienced driver in the passenger seat.

Drive with co-pilot

Benchmarks for Performance and Probationary Periods

First Probationary Period:

During the initial probationary period, the employing motor carrier must ensure that the trainee spends a minimum of 120 hours working, with a minimum of 80 hours dedicated to operating a commercial motor vehicle. The motor carrier must also guarantee that the trainee completes the mandated driving hours and acquires proficiency in all of the following areas:

  •  Interstate, city traffic, two-lane rural roads, and nighttime driving
  • Safety consciousness
  • Space management and speed
  • Lane management
  • Scanning the mirror
  • Turn both right and left
  • Logging and following regulations regarding hours of service

Second Probationary Period:

The apprentice must finish the second probationary period after the 120-hour trial period is over. The trainee must complete 280 hours of on-duty time during the second probationary term, including at least 160 hours spent behind the wheel of a CMV. The employing motor carrier at this time must make sure the trainee completes the necessary driving hours and is proficient in all of the following:

  • Backing and swerving in confined spaces
  • Pre-trip inspections
  • Fueling techniques
  • Weighing loads
  • Putting on weight and sliding tandems
  • Coupling and uncoupling procedures
  • Map reading, navigation, permissions, trip planning, and truck routes

After successfully completing both probationary periods, an apprentice can independently cross state lines without being accompanied by another driver. Nonetheless, the apprentice remains under the purview of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, and the employing motor carrier must continue monitoring their safety performance. This monitoring includes filing monthly safety performance reports with FMCSA until the driver reaches the age of 21.

What Is The Future of Pilot Program (SDAP)

The SDAP Program is just one small aspect of the current driver shortage challenge.
Actively reach out to underrepresented communities in the trucking industry and enhance wages, benefits, and the integration of technology in trucking jobs as part of your ongoing initiatives.

Only up to 3,000 drivers can currently take advantage of chances under the SDAP
Program’s pilot phase. The tens of thousands of drivers required in the upcoming years to address shortages throughout the sector fall short of this number. While the ongoing shortage isn’t completely resolved, experts consider the SDAP Program a positive step in the right direction. Trucking companies facing challenges in filling positions should consider seizing the opportunity offered by the pilot program.

Earn More Without Losing Your Freedom With TruckBook Owner Operators Program (TROOP)

No experience? No problem! Start your trucking career with TruckBook. At TruckBook we believe that every truck driver has unique skills and deserves to be on the road. With the growing professional community of 1M+ truckers, our program (TROOP) allows owner operators to Drive Under TruckBook Authority across the United States.

Not just young drivers, but even millennials are approaching middle age. They are tech-savvy, spend a lot of time on social media, like teamwork, are generally concerned with the greater good, and look for balance between their personal and professional lives. They can join our program and help us contribute to solving the driver shortage problem.

To join us and learn more about our TROOP program you can write us at

Begin your trucking career with confidence and embark on the freedom of your time. With our continuous support and the numerous benefits we offer, your successful future is guaranteed!


You may also like