EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – To drive a big rig cross country you will no longer need to be 21-years-old, as the federal government moves forward with an apprenticeship program

The new, lower age of 18 is an effort to combat the truck driver shortage and supply chain issues. The program is something borderland trucking company Mesilla Valley Transportation says they are interested in.

“It’s been extremely hard and as long as we have that shortage the supply chain issues are going to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Robert Pierson the Vice President of Driver Recruiting at Mesilla Valley Transportation.

Pierson says the program would give younger people the chance choose to start a career in trucking sooner.

  “At present as an industry we don’t have that opportunity since we have to wait till 21 years, they most likely made this a second career choice so were looking forward to that opportunity of being the first career choice.”

Explaining the training that goes into getting your truck driver’s license.

“As it presently stands for somebody of at least 21-years-old they go to a trucking school which is heavily regulated they get anywhere between 120 hours in some cases there are programs that go up to 500 hours of training depending on what they’re going through once they get through that training they then go on to a company and the training continues from that point on and each unique company that hires a student will do additional training that could go anywhere from 90 days to 6 months until that driver is considered an experienced truck driver,” said Pierson.

The apprenticeship program is part of the infrastructure bill signed into law back in November of 2021.

While Mesilla Valley Trucking says they are interested, Peirson expects it to take some time.

“First you have what the actual regulations will be from the federal government then you have the insurance providers who actually have to ensure the individuals going out in the truck,” said Pierson.

KTSM 9 News went to speak to truck drivers at a truck stop in Anthony, Texas and they have mixed feelings about younger drivers getting behind the wheel of big rigs.

“I don’t think it’s a wise idea because driving is ok but if something happens they need to manage that, it’s literally hard. Because if it is going on 75 miles per hour fully loaded it’s 40 tons it’s literally hard to stop,” said truck driver Justin Varghese who was also passing through El Paso.

“They can join the military at 18, they can die for their country,” said truck driver William Warnerburg who was passing through El Paso on Wednesday. When asked if the classes were enough training to teach someone of 18-years old Warnerburg replied “the classes are enough to teach someone who’s 60”.

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