The American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported a shortage of 80,000 drivers last year, an all-time high that could reach 160,000 by 2030. To keep up with demand over the next decade, the trucking industry must recruit nearly one million new drivers to close the gap caused by demand for freight, projected retirements, and other issues.
In December 2021, President Biden created a registered apprenticeship program with the US Department of Labor, and the US Department of Transportation called the 90-Day Trucking Apprenticeship Challenge.
The goal was to increase driver training efforts among trucking companies nationwide. With this recruitment effort, the increased number of truck drivers would boost the workforce — currently in a driver shortage — and help support the industry.
Apprenticeship programs like the one created by the Biden administration are vital in the trucking industry, which needs more safe, trained drivers who are in it for the long haul (pun intended).
What Does a Truck Driver Apprenticeship Look Like?
The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP), sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), is essentially a pathway for new drivers (ages 18–20) to gain experience, training, and earn certifications.
The apprentices first train to gain an intrastate Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate commercial trucks and haul freight under specific conditions. They train at a business in their state and enroll in the program. Once they receive their license, their apprenticeship can start at the same carrier they trained under. The apprenticeship will last for two years, after which the apprentices can choose to work at that same carrier full-time.
These apprenticeships help young drivers to receive on-the-job training from experienced truck drivers and give them direct career opportunities. This allows them to gain a deeper understanding of the industry as they gain driving experience and learn essential safety training.
What are the Benefits?
Usually, 18–20 year-olds would only be able to haul freight within the state, but this apprenticeship allows them to haul interstate commerce. Not only is this a fantastic learning experience for them, but trucking companies gain newly trained drivers and increase the amount of commerce they haul.
After only two years, these apprentices are trained as professional drivers with a certificate from the Department of Labor. This is an incredible opportunity for young drivers wishing to jumpstart their careers.
Having young drivers haul interstate commerce can be considered a safety liability, but the carriers must track and report their safety performance to the Department of Labor. This helps ensure that companies train the apprentices to professional standards and are taught accountability.
Trucking apprenticeships are a win-win for both apprentices and trucking companies. Apprentices learn practical skills, gain valuable experience, and explore careers in the trucking industry. Trucking companies benefit from the fresh pool of talent, boosting their business.
Can Apprenticeships Help the Industry?
Apprenticeships can be vital to solving the talent shortage in transportation and building a future talent pool in the industry. Truck driving is considered a high-demand apprenticeship occupation since trucking moves 72% of commercial goods in the US.
Now offered by 100 employers and seven trade associations, this program would only allow more apprentices to be trained and more businesses to benefit. Apprenticeships foster a strong work ethic and a sense of professionalism, helping driver retention.
Apprenticeships like SDAP can create a new generation of truck drivers that are well-trained and safe. This makes a sustainable boost to the industry that’ll only grow and improve. More than 876,000 CDLs have been issued since January 2021 with the help of this program.
Not only do apprenticeships like this cut red tape, opening more doors for young drivers wanting to enter the career, but they also boost business and, by proxy, the commercial transportation industry. Trucking apprenticeships are a no-brainer.