U.S. launches apprenticeship program for young truck drivers
Drivers as young as 18 will soon be allowed to drive commercial trucks across state lines under a federal apprenticeship pilot program that’s intended to expand the number of drivers for interstate hauls.
The Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program is part of the $1 trillion bill signed into law by President Biden to modernize the nation’s aging infrastructure. The pilot is open to 18- to 20-year-old drivers who already hold intrastate commercial driver licenses. It sets out several requirements for participating drivers and carriers to follow:
- Activity reporting: Carriers that want to participate will have to apply, meet safety requirements and submit monthly data on each driver’s activity and performance. Approved carriers will be publicly announced on the FMCSA website.
- Technology: The apprentice can only drive a truck that has an automatic manual or automatic transmission; active braking and collision mitigation; a forward-facing video event capture system; and a governed speed of 65 mph.
- Supervision: The apprentice must be accompanied in the passenger seat of the CMV by an experienced driver. An experienced driver is defined as one at least 26 years old who has held a CDL, been employed for at least the past two years, has at least five years of interstate CMV experience and has had no preventable accidents reportable to the agency or pointed moving violations.
You can find a full list of program details in this Jan. 13 FMCSA pre-publication Federal Register post.
New mandates cast a shadow over cross-border trucking
Trucks outfitted with Canadian flags and banners with slogans like “No Jabs For Jobs” and “Stop All Mandates” plugged roads along the Canada-U.S. border as part of a protest against vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers.
Starting on Jan. 22, the U.S. instituted proof-of-vaccination requirements for foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry ports of entry must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination. Canada has been enforcing similar requirements for inbound truck drivers since Jan. 15.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) issued a statement saying protests “are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed.” The CTA estimates that more than 20% of truck drivers in Canada are not fully vaccinated.
Doug Betts, president of the global automotive division at J.D. Power, told Reuters that the restrictions will make automotive manufacturing supply chain problems worse, adding, “I would be surprised if there are any (U.S.) cars that don’t have at least one Canadian-based part.”
Supply chains: The only thing that’s certain is more uncertainty
Businesses are bracing for more supply chain disruptions as ocean lines, railroads and ports grapple with labor shortages and outbreaks of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Some examples in the news this week:
- On the cusp of the Lunar New Year holiday and the 2022 Winter Olympics, China’s “zero-COVID” strategy has resulted in lockdowns and reduced productivity at its largest port hubs including Shanghai, Dalian, Tianjin and Shenzhen.
- In a new report from Goldman Sachs, 66% of small business owners say suppliers are favoring large businesses over small companies due to the volume of orders. These small business operators are pointedly pessimistic about relief coming any time soon as only 13% expect supply chain issues to subside in the next six months. The Goldman Sachs survey was conducted Jan. 10-13 and included almost 1,500 small business owners from 48 states.
- Effective Jan. 26, Norfolk Southern is shutting down intermodal service from Atlanta and Memphis to Charleston, S.C., due to a lack of dray power and gate activity at the port. Nineteen vessels were anchored outside the Port of Charleston on Monday as port officials worry they will have to further slow the unloading of vessels if cargo owners continue to leave their containers unclaimed.
- Union Pacific said it was caught off guard by the number of workers absent because of quarantines and getting their vaccines, which led to fewer on-time trips and other deteriorating operating performance in the fourth quarter. The number of miles each car traveled in a day, which is a measure of asset utilization, fell to 197 in the fourth quarter compared with 223 a year earlier. On-time delivery rates for intermodal trailers, which transfer from rails to trucks, fell to 78% from 83%. For other cargo, it fell to 58% from 74%. In terms of PR, it’s been a rough time for UP.