Enforcement and Inspection

OSHA Raises Penalties, FMCSA Pilots Young Driver Program

On January 14, the Department of Labor (DOL), including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), adjusted its civil penalties for inflation (87 Federal Register (FR) 2328). Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a driver apprenticeship pilot program to allow 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce (87 FR 2477).

Higher OSHA penalties

The DOL issued a final rule adjusting for inflation the civil penalties imposed across its agencies, including OSHA. The rule sets new dollar amounts for penalties proposed after January 15.

Penalties for willful safety and health violations will be no less than $10,360 and no more than $145,027. The maximum penalty for a repeated violation also will be $145,027. The maximum penalty for serious, other-than-serious, and posting requirement violations will be $14,502. The maximum penalty for failure to correct violations will be $14,502 per day.

Safe driver apprenticeship pilot program

On September 10, 2020, the FMCSA proposed a pilot program that was never implemented to allow 18-, 19-, and 2o-year-olds to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.

On November 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law requiring the FMCSA to establish a pilot program that would allow employers to establish an apprenticeship program for 18-, 19-, and 2o-year-olds. The IIJA sometimes is referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

The January 14 notice announces the establishment of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Program. Once implemented, no more than 3,000 apprentices may participate in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program at any one time.

The pilot program would provide relief for approved motor carriers and apprentices from the regulatory requirement that commercial driver’s license holders in interstate commerce be 21 years old. The FMCSA assumes a maximum of 1,000 participating motor carriers that would hire 3,000 apprenticeship pilot program participants.

Motor carriers seeking to participate in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program must complete an application for participation and submit monthly data on apprentices’ driving activity, including vehicle miles traveled, duty hours, driving hours, off-duty time, or breaks; safety outcomes, such as crashes, violations, and safety-critical events; and any additional supporting information, such as onboard monitoring systems or investigative reports from previous crashes.

Motor carriers also will be required to notify the FMCSA within 24 hours of:

  • Any injury or fatal crash involving an apprentice;
  • An apprentice’s receiving an alcohol-related citation in any vehicle—driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated;
  • An apprentice’s choosing to leave the pilot program;
  • An apprentice’s leaving the motor carrier; or
  • An apprentice’s failing a random or post-crash drug or alcohol test.

An apprenticeship program consists of a 120-hour probationary period and a 280-hour probationary period for apprentice drivers, and apprentices must be accompanied in the passenger seat of the CMV by an experienced driver. An apprentice may only drive 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.

During the 120-hour probationary period, the employing motor carrier must ensure the apprentice completes 120 hours of on-duty time, not less than 80 hours driving a CMV, and is competent in interstate, city traffic and rural two-lane and evening driving; safety awareness; speed and space management; lane control; mirror scanning; right and left turns; and logging and complying with rules relating to hours of service.

After the 120-hour probationary period, the apprentice must complete a 280-hour probationary period. During the 280-hour probationary period, the motor carrier employer must ensure that the apprentice completes 280 hours of on-duty time, not less than 160 hours driving a CMV, and is competent in backing and maneuvering in close quarters; coupling and uncoupling procedures; fueling procedures; trip planning and pre-trip inspections; truck routes, map reading, navigation, and permits; and weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems.

Motor carriers also must register an apprenticeship program with the DOL. The FMCSA suggested that carriers interested in participating in the pilot program may want to work with the DOL while the FMCSA finalizes its program and before the application period for the FMCSA’s pilot program is opened, but motor carriers are not required to become a registered apprenticeship program before applying to the FMCSA’s pilot program.