The Next Generation of Truck Drivers

While the supply chain crunch has disappeared from the news, its effects continue to wreak havoc across the country. Empty shelves, rising prices for goods across the board and billions in lost profits due to shipping delays and material shortages are hitting consumers and companies alike, culminating in a strange and precarious economic environment where everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Governments and private entities alike are doing everything possible to identify and rectify the bottlenecks in the supply chain causing delays. One of the primary drivers for logistical bottlenecks in the chain is the lack of truck drivers, a problem exacerbated by the economic upheavals of the last couple years either forcing aging drivers into retirement or convincing them that it’s not worth it to go on.

A solution that has been discussed and lobbied by the trucking industry for years has finally found begrudging support in a Washington staring down the barrel of a gun: lowering the age and experience requirements for new long-haul truck drivers. Drivers as young as 18 may be hired, as long as they complete a 240 hour apprenticeship program behind the wheel with a more experienced mentor in the cab with them.

While this may be good news for logistics companies hurting for new talent, this also presents an interesting problem for them: insuring the new drivers. As any parent who has faced the daunting prospect of paying for their teenager’s car insurance can tell you, providers do not put much stock in the driving skills of 18 year olds.

Traditionally, insurance underwriters providing policies for commercial freight fleets had a few baseline requirements for commercial drivers:

  1. Clean bill of health with no chronic conditions that may impact driving
  2. Two years holding a commercial licence 
  3. Being at least twenty-five years old

While the first condition is non-negotiable, the other rules have been growing a little softer. In recent years, companies like SWAN Insurance have been helping connect companies with underwriters that are willing to work with younger drivers 21 years and up.

Introducing 18 year old commercial drivers into the mix has complicated matters even further. 18 is still the youngest age a person may apply for a commercial license, so the youngest new drivers would have no chance of holding their C-licence for anything approaching two years.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, however – with truck driver shortages severely impacting the entire economy, the government is willing to put significant resources into making sure as many young drivers can be put on the road as possible. In addition to lowering the age requirement, the government is rapidly expanding the funds available for apprenticeship programs, outreach to veterans as recruits for logistics companies, and expediting the licensing process.

To help alleviate the concerns of insurance providers, drivers undergoing the apprenticeship would be required to use trucks equipped with a number of safety features. These include an automatic braking system, speed governors that cap out at 65 miles per hour, and mandated dash cams.

Trucking companies have pushed for the lowering of age requirements for decades, and now that the day is finally here, it’s going to present some interesting challenges for both them and the insurance companies they work with. However the situation shakes out, SWAN Insurance is keeping a close eye out, waiting to connect logistics companies with underwriters and help insure the young truck drivers they’re now able to hire.