Federal Program to Offer Apprenticeships to 18–20-Year-Old Truck Drivers

With the combination of supply chain problems and a trucker shortage, the US is searching for alternatives to invest in the next generation.

In many towns, bare shelves have become common place. Fewer choices and longer lead times are the norm across the U.S. How many times have you tried to order an item at your favorite grab and grub and been told, “Sorry but we are out of that,”? Need a new dishwasher, you may be on an 8 to 12 week wait. It can be frustrating.

Supply chain problems seem to be in the news every day; you just can’t escape it. The problems aren’t really new since we have been dealing with them for the better part of the past 2 years but they seem no easier to navigate.

The means that could help get supply chain problems caught up are experiencing employee drought as well. Reportedly, there is a shortage of some 80,000 truck drivers, per the American Trucking Association, that contributes to this pain in the…uh, axel… for consumers and producers alike.

At Metro, we have a small cushion. We utilize our own trucks for local deliveries, and more often than not, we rely on the transportation choices of our customers when it comes to freight and interstate logistics.

However, Metro is not immune to the trucker shortage. We are subject to the problem of receiving production materials like steel inserts and resins, just like all other businesses.

And being consumers, we certainly see the results on our retail store shelves.

So, the Feds have decided to start a program that would allow 18 to 20-year-old drivers to journey outside of their home state and across the country. An aging driver force and little interest in this type of work is part of the reason for the trucker shortage. It’s hard work with long hours and, sometimes, very little respect. That’s not from a source, folks, that’s from first-hand experience having grown up with close relatives who are “truckers.” It’s a symptom of the lack of blue-collar job interest that plagues the States.

In accordance with the program regulations, during a new driver’s probationary period, an experienced driver must also ride along.  

We at the writing desk wondered just how our Metro drivers and other experienced truck drivers feel about the new program. Do they think it’s the answer or will it cause more problems than solutions?


Metro Bob

Bob has been a truck driver for 41 years and, knock on wood, has never been involved in an accident and only had 2 violations.

He thinks the apprenticeship program is not a bad idea as some 18–20-year-olds haven’t started creating families or dependencies, so they could afford to be on the road for long periods of time without the burden of missing out on family opportunities. However, in the same token, that is a young and maturing age group. He would like to see screening processes in place to make sure none of the candidates have “robbed a bank before,” for example. He knows that in his years of experience he has witnessed “some very mature 18-year-olds that acted better than some 35-year-olds,” so he feels age isn’t the biggest determining factor. The hours with supervised driving and time spent behind the wheel is more crucial.

Trucking Terry

Terry retired this year after driving since 1975. He was an owner-operator for some years and also worked for Holland/Yellow Freight for over 20 years.

No bones about it, Terry is against the program. He feels like, in general, most young adults don’t have the maturity needed to be an over-the-road driver. Staying out on the road for days and sometimes weeks, which is a reality for cross country drivers, is tough at any age…let alone 18 or 19 years old.

Metro Blaine

Blaine is the lead driver at Metro Plastics in addition to providing logistic services to neighboring companies. Here are his thoughts: “I think it’s a great idea to get the next generation of drivers started at a younger age as long as the apprenticeship has strict guidelines. Dependent upon the guidelines, then I think the younger age will not be an issue as well as crossing state lines. As more drivers continue to retire the transportation industry shortage of drivers continues to climb at an alarming rate. Hopefully this new program fills that void and creates some great career opportunities for a younger generation.”

Though controversy surrounds this subject, there’s no doubt that a move needs to be made if we plan to rise above supply chain problems. As far as we here at the writing desk are concerned, we can see both perspectives. Offering a career growth opportunity can help unemployed Americans find their niche. It also gives way for creativity. More and more companies will be pressured to get creative with benefits and perks of the job. Stringent guidelines and organized benchmarks for the apprentices can keep potential disasters at bay. And really, there are some exceptionally responsible young people out there who may prove to be very successful if given the chance!

What are your thoughts? Have you heard of any other programs that, once in place, brought support and productivity where there was none? Let’s chat about it! Find our post on social media and get talkin’!