Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program: Expanding the CMV Workforce

3 min readNov 9, 2023
woman with arms crossed in front of a semitruck. Text reads “Short on Drivers? Discover SDAP”

The FMCSA Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) Program was launched on July 26, 2022, as part of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Program allows drivers between the ages of 18 to 20 years old with an intrastate commercial driver’s license to operate interstate commerce using a CMV with safety features while under supervision.

This pilot will help individuals aged 18,19, and 20 explore interstate trucking careers and help trucking companies hire and train new drivers. Additionally, the program will assist FMCSA in gathering safety data as the three-year program grants an exemption from regulatory requirements for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holder to be 21 years of age prior to operating in interstate commerce.

FMCSA is co-hosting a free webinar with the U.S. Department of Labor on Monday, November 13, at 3:00 pm ET for National Apprenticeship Week. Register for the webinar here.

As of September 2023, FMCSA has received 30 applications for apprentice drivers, all of whom have been accepted into SDAP. Motor carriers who are already approved for the SDAP program are listed here.

Program Features

The apprenticeship program consists of a 120-hour probationary period and another 280-hour probationary period for apprentice drivers, during which the apprentice must be accompanied in the passenger seat of the CMV by an experienced driver who will ensure the apprentice learns what is required in the program.

CMV Safety

The apprentice only drives a CMV that has an automatic manual or automatic transmission; an active braking collision mitigation system; a forward-facing video event capture system; and a governed speed of 65 miles per hour at the pedal and under adaptive cruise control.

First Probation Period

120 hours of on-duty time, including 80 hours of driving a CMV. Gain competence in:

· Interstate, city traffic, rural 2-lane, and evening driving

· Safety awareness

· Speed and space management

· Lane control

· Mirror scanning

· Right and left turns

· Logging and complying with rules relating to hours of service

Second probation period

280 hours of on-duty time, including 160 hours of driving a CMV. Gain competence in:

· Backing and maneuvering in close quarters

· Pre-trip inspections

· Fueling procedures

· Weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems

· Coupling and uncoupling procedures

· Trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation, and permits

Motor Carrier Requirements

Motor carriers that would like to participate in the SDAP program can apply on the SDAP website. If you need additional information or help with application process, visit the SDAP program overview page where you can access helpful resources, such as motor carrier requirements and a “How to Apply” one-page guide that explains the steps. Once an application is submitted, FMCSA will respond within 30 days. Once approved, your company will be added as a hiring carrier on our job opportunities webpage for interested apprenticeship applicants.

Key requirements

· Register with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

· Submit monthly data on an apprentice’s driver activity (e.g., vehicle miles traveled, duty hours, driving hours, off-duty time, or breaks), safety outcomes (e.g., crashes, violations, and safety-critical events), and any additional supporting information (e.g., onboard monitoring systems or investigative reports from previous crashes).

Additional requirements are listed here.

Apprentice Requirements

During the probationary periods, apprentice drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 can operate in interstate commerce with an experienced driver in the passenger seat. Once the probationary periods end, the apprentice driver can operate in interstate commerce unaccompanied. Those interested in becoming an apprentice in SDAP can check if they are qualified here.




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