FMCSA published an entry-level driver training (ELDT) on February 6th 2017 but it will be followed by a 3-year grace period, allowing trucking companies time to adjust to the new training requirements.
The new core requirements establish training standards that govern both core classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training requirements.
There will also be a FMCSA-governed registry of approved trainers available to train entry-level truck drivers across the nation. There will be separate standards of training for Class A and Class B CDL applications. For those looking for hazmat or passenger endorsements, additional training will be required.
In what may be a rarity for trucking industry advocacy groups, both the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) strongly support the new training rules.
There are some differences, however, from the prior guidance the FMCSA put out in March. In this new version they have removed the requirement that potential truck drivers must complete 30 hours behind-the-wheel prior to getting their CDL.
Left in were the requirements for behind-the-wheel and public road training, but it no longer requires the 30-hour timeline. As the rule is now written, new applicant training will be considered completed when trainees are able to show they have successfully completed both behind-the-wheel training and that “all elements of the curricula are proficiently demonstrated while the driver-trainee has actual control of the power unit during a driving lesson.
The FMCSA has also removed the time requirement where classroom training is concerned. Instead, the agency requires that the training make sure to cover all aspects of the suggested curriculum:
- Basic operation of the vehicle
- Backing up and docking
- Coupling and uncoupling
- Pre- and post-trip inspections
- Distracted driving
- Vehicle communication – including signals and other equipment
- What to do in an emergency
- Roadside inspections
- Trip planning
- Cargo handling
- Regulatory compliance
For those applying for a Class A CDL, the required curriculum will include elements administered by the FMCSA-approved trainer. The state will be required to certify people applying for their CDL have been properly trained according to the guidelines. Only then should they be allowed to take the skills test and move on to get their CDL.
But who are these trainers? The agency is pushing to use trainers from registries managed by the states. They will go by the term Trainer Provider Registry (TPR).
Motor carriers who want to conduct their training in-house are permitted to do so, but their trainers must complete a curriculum that meets the standards any other trainer in the registry will had to have gone through. For an individual to personally train a friend or family member, they must go through a process and receive verification from the FMCSA.
The Costs and Benefits
As always with new rules like these, there is an associated cost. The FMCSA estimates the total cost of the rule will run the trucking industry over $3.6 billion by 2029. That breaks down to over $366 million per year, starting when the regulation goes into effect – 2020.
But while some people say the cost is too great, the FMCSA points to potential cost offsets in the way of $2.38 billion saved from increased fuel efficiency, more efficient operational capacity, reduced maintenance costs and far fewer accidents.
Considering these training programs are coming as a mandated rule, motor carriers are increasingly preparing to get out in front of this change. Whether they are utilizing video systems, on-site training or other methods, they are preparing their truck drivers for the future of trucking. After all, if they don’t do it, who will?