The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rolled out its Safe Driver Apprenticeship pilot program in January, which includes 1,000 interstate motor carriers and as many as 3,000 apprentices.1

The federal pilot program will allow employers to establish an apprenticeship program for eligible 18- to 20-year-old drivers. That’s excellent news to an industry that is in desperate need of drivers. But transportation companies will need excellent safety records to reap the benefits, as well as manage risk when hiring young drivers.

Safety criteria to participate

Officially known as the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, motor carriers need to meet specific criteria before participating:

  • A compliance, safety, accountability (CSA) safety management system or safety measurement system scores that are below the alert threshold, generally 65%.
  • A “no rating” or “satisfactory” safety rating.
  • Average out-of-service rates during roadside inspections that are below the national average, which are around 21% for vehicles and 5.7% for drivers.
  • Acceptable levels of DOT recordable crash rates, which are about 1.5 crashes per 1 million miles driven in calendar year.

Each month, participating carriers must submit data to the FMCSA data on an apprentice’s driver activity, safety outcomes and any additional supporting information. To be eligible for the apprenticeship pilot, drivers must not have any serious driving offenses for the last two years, no accidents resulting in a citation or license suspensions, or any drug or alcohol issues, documented or otherwise.

Best practices to reduce risk

The program and its emphasis on finding strong drivers and motor carriers with exemplary safety records illustrates the need to establish a strong safety culture within any transportation company, whether it intends to hire 18- to 20-year-old drivers or not.

Focusing on the following best practices not only will immediately reduce risk but ensure that hiring new drivers won’t increase risk — and insurance rates — in the future.

Be transparent and truthful in recruiting: Be completely honest to prospective drivers when recruiting them. Don’t overstate pay, perks, benefits or minimize training and safety requirements to attract drivers — doing so will result in a wave of new drivers leaving. However, an environment built on trust and transparency will attract drivers who want to stay long-term.

Create a strong pay structure: Drivers appreciate straightforward, accurate pay programs. If a carrier pays them less than expected, there’s always another company that will pay them what they want. Losing experienced drivers this way only increases a motor carrier’s risk profile. One way that can help: Compensation based on a salary and is not dependent on mileage, so there’s clarity on all sides.

Keep vehicles in top shape: The supply chain issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have made vehicle maintenance a challenge, as parts and supplies can be hard to obtain. Transportation companies can leverage their experience in supply chain management or work with an expert to ensure a steady supply of parts.

Train the trainers: The best trainers aren’t necessarily the best drivers simply given a fancy title. Training those who teach other drivers will result in better safety outcomes. Trainers need to be able to communicate with young drivers, who usually need more instruction than experienced ones.

Contact your HUB Transportation specialist to learn more about how to improve your safety profile through recruiting and retention.

1Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program,” March 3, 2022.