Trucking news and briefs for Friday, Jan. 14, 2022:
FMCSA officially establishes under-21 apprenticeship pilot program
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in a Federal Register notice published Jan. 14, officially announced the establishment of its Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program that will allow 18-20-year-old CDL holders to cross state lines after extensive training.
The program has been in the works since September 2020, when FMCSA first published a request for comments regarding the program. The Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law last November, requires the agency to establish the program, which will allow trucking companies to establish apprenticeship programs for under-21 prospective haulers.
The apprenticeship program must consist of two probationary periods, one for 120 hours and the other for 280 hours, each of which includes minimum hours of driving time with an experienced driver and performance benchmarks. In addition, the CMVs to be operated during the pilot program must be equipped with specific vehicle safety technologies.
Last week, FMCSA took the first step in establishing the program by requesting emergency approval for an information collection request from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Once approved, FMCSA will seek OMB approval for the full three-year period.
Once the program is implemented, FMCSA will publish on its website an announcement that applications are open for participation in the program. No more than 3,000 apprentices will be allowed to participate in the pilot at any one time, and FMCSA estimates that it will need a maximum of 1,000 motor carriers to participate to hire the pilot program participants.
Carriers who are approved to participate will be required to submit monthly data on an apprentice’s driver activity, safety outcomes, and any additional supporting information, such as from onboard monitoring systems.
The full list of motor carrier qualifications can be found in Friday’s Federal Register notice.
Winter weather expected this weekend in Appalachians, East Coast
Truck drivers planning to travel through the Midwest and Eastern United States this weekend might be in for some rough conditions. Weather forecasters are warning of a significant winter weather threat moving through from the Midwest to the Southeast and up the East Coast over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
The National Weather Service said the system is likely to produce heavy snow over parts of the Upper/Middle Mississippi Valley on Friday, resulting in reduced visibility and hazardous driving conditions. By Saturday evening, NWS expects rain to change over to snow over parts of Arkansas, and overnight Saturday, the rain will change to snow over parts of the Tennessee Valley.
Snow is also expected to develop over the central and southern Appalachian Mountains, with pockets of rain and freezing rain developing over the Carolinas and southern Appalachians overnight Saturday.
At the same time, NWS says a low pressure system off the Carolina coast will move north by Friday evening, causing gusty winds to develop over the Northeast from Friday into Saturday. Additionally, NWS predicts light snow to develop over parts of the Northeast on Friday into Saturday.
According to forecasting service Accuweather, the storm is expected to bring heavy snow, ice, heavy rain and gusty winds through the impacted regions.
Winter storm watches are already in effect as of Friday morning for parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Accuweather says the upcoming storm “is projected to bring a general 12-18 inches of snow to the Appalachians, and only a small amount of snow is likely in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York City.”
Convoy Lead Meteorologist Francisco Alvarez said truck drivers in the Midwest Friday and Saturday "will almost certainly experience heavy snowfall on Friday and Saturday. It'll be bad for drivers within that area, and potentially worse for drivers who are going through that area who may not be as experienced in driving in such conditions."
In the Southeast on Saturday and Sunday, Alvarez said ice and freezing rain are likely, especially in northern Georgia and most of the Carolinas. "I think some of the 'less able to be prepared' areas have the chance to be pretty bad," he noted.
Finally, in the Northeast on Sunday and Monday, Alvarez said there's a chance for heavy snow. "It's a bit too early to be super confident about amounts, but it has the makings to be pretty impactful to those areas," he said. "Throw in the cold air that will likely follow this system and it's likely a significant event.”
Canada backtracks, again, says border vaccine mandate still in place
Canada's minister of health on Thursday admitted to making an error in communication when on Wednesday news outlets were told that the country would relax its vaccine mandate for Canadian drivers reentering the country.
"On November 19, 2021, we announced that as of January 15, 2022, certain categories of travelers who are currently exempt from entry requirements, will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada. These groups include several essential service providers, including truck drivers. Let us be clear: This has not changed. The information shared yesterday was provided in error. Our teams have been in touch with industry representatives to ensure they have the correct information," a statement sent to Overdrive said.
On Wednesday, the same agency told Canada's national broadcaster and international media outlets that "[u]nvaccinated, or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers arriving at the border will remain exempt from pre-arrival, on arrival and post-arrival testing and quarantine requirement," citing industry pressure.
The Canadian Truckers Association estimated that the Canadian trucking industry would lose 12,000-16,000 (10-15%) of cross-border truck drivers due to the mandate.