A controversial apprenticeship program, gaining funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will allow drivers under the age of 21 to drive commercial motor vehicles across state lines. Now, this program is bringing to light worries around motor carrier reporting requirements.
The pilot program will permit intrastate truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21, along with their respective carriers, to enroll in a program requiring proper monitoring and training. In a series of comments filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Truckload Carriers Association and American Trucking Associates explained their concerns that the outline data collection requirements within the program will hinder its productivity. These comments came in response to FMCSA’s Federal Register information collection request last month.
In this request, the agency predicted that the pilot program’s necessary data collection would take around 20 minutes for each response for every carrier, experienced driver, and apprentice application form; 15 minutes for each response for all safety benchmark certifications; 90 minutes every month for miscellaneous data submission; and 60 minutes every month per driver for all monthly safety and driving data.
Additionally, FMCSA has been urging the White House Office of Management and Budget to rapidly approve its requests, and the agency only allowed for five days of public commentary. It also noted that these extensive data submission requirements may prevent smaller carriers from wanting to be part of the pilot.
“The draft information collection request may create unnecessary administrative burdens and/or prevent or delay small- and medium-sized motor carriers from participating in the program, limiting the success of the program–potentially significantly,” said ATA in the comments it offered. “Every additional burden placed on motor carriers may reduce the number participating.”
Still, ATA is staying optimistic for the potential the program has to improve the ongoing and severe truck driver shortage.
“While we believe the data collection is too broad and a registered apprenticeship mandate may prevent broad participation, ATA and its members will promote the program and [look] forward to assisting FMCSA in supporting the program,” the group said.
Although the Drive Safe Coalition supports the pilot program itself, the group believes that additional data submission requirements should be limited each month to address “only those elements that are essential in evaluating the safety impact of the young drivers,” the coalition explained. “Allowing younger commercial drivers to operate across state lines and transport interstate freight if they meet heightened training and safety equipment requirements will provide a real opportunity to address current and future truck driver shortages.”
TCA agreed, noting that the large amounts of data that will be required will likely create unprecedented difficulty for a majority of carriers.
“We must note our concern with the monthly frequency of the reporting required of the carrier, as well as the vast amounts of data that must be supplied through these reports,” said TCA. “While the statutory language grants the Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to request data relating to the safety of apprentices aged 18 to 20 years operation in interstate commerce, we fear that the breadth of data outlined in the Information Collection Request will present an undue burden to carriers.”
There also seems to be a lack of understanding regarding the extent to which most of the nation’s carriers can comply with these methods of data monitoring, TCA added.
“In particular, the requirement to supply ‘safety event data (as recorded by all safety systems installed on vehicles, to include advanced driver assistance systems, automatic emergency braking systems, onboard monitoring systems and forward-facing and in-cab video systems),’ will be very difficult to satisfy,” TCA said, “particularly for smaller carriers that do not have an extensive staff to handle this reporting.”
Werner Enterprises Inc., a carrier out of Omaha, Nebraska, also expressed its worry that the likelihood that “voluminous” data collection requirements “without some limitations” may come to fruition, and noted that certain changes to these reporting requirements may “help to strengthen the impact of collected data.”