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Are You Ready for the Entry-Level Truck Driver Training Rule?

If not, now is the time to prepare. New entry-level driver training requirements call for a wide variety of instruction covering seven topics. Do you know what those topics are? If you are a trucker or have truck drivers in your fleet, the new training requirements are must-know information.

First, let’s talk about the date. The new entry-level training requirements will go into effect on February 7, 2022. And when the new rules take effect, trucking companies will need to implement a new program for trainees to obtain their learner’s permit and get a CDL. Previously, the rules were quite loose. The trainee gets a learner’s permit, spends some time in the cab with an experienced CDL-holder, then takes the CDL skills test.

Under the new requirements, trainees will be required to test out of a specific curriculum presented by someone registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. And even though the deadline is still months away, it is imperative fleet managers begin preparing for it now.

New Entry-Level Driver Training Basics

So, what are the minimum standards new truck drivers will be held to when they join a new trucking company? First, let’s look at who this applies to. Essentially, anyone applying for their initial Class A or Class B CDL, upgrading their current CDL, or obtaining a first-time hazardous materials endorsement will be required to go through the new ELDT training.

But what will the training entail? Essentially, an individual will be required to complete a prescribed program of theory and behind-the-wheel instruction. Truck Driving Schools and instructors will also be required to list themselves within the FMCSA registry.

Even more, the requirements to get into the registry have changed. To become a certified instructor or training agency, you must demonstrate that you have the knowledge and training ability to certify entry-level truck drivers. You must also show that you can absorb new procedures and theory curriculum.

What is the Training Provider Registry?

Gone are the days when training instructors and certifiers could be selected based on unofficial criteria. Now, entry-level driver trainers will be required to sign up with the Training Provider Registry (TPR). And to be listed on the (TPR), truck drivers will need to meet specific criteria. Trainer curriculum will address instruction, facilities, vehicles, equipment, accounting, and other attendant paperwork and recordkeeping.

If you think you might fit the bill, you can fill out an online application here. You will be required to provide:

  • Basic identifying information.
  • Your provider and their contact information.
  • Where you will be providing instruction.
  • Type of instruction provided.
  • Average number of training hours.
  • Exact cost of training provided.
  • Third-party affiliations.
  • Degrees.
  • Certificiations.
  • Accreditations.

If you are registering as a school, you will be required to provide information regarding each of your instructors. Also, schools register the instructors in groups, so once a school gets on the system, individual instructors do not have to register separately. Of course, trainers must have experience and hold the CDL license they are training for. They must also have the same endorsements, a minimum of two years driving experience, and a minimum of two years training experience.

Examining the Latest ELDT In-Class Curriculum

For Class A and B CDLs, the rule requires instruction in five distinct areas. Each of these areas then encompasses specific topics. For Class A CDL holders, there are 30 topics. For Class B CDL holders, there are 29 topics. The topics that each section of the curriculum covers include the following:

  • Vehicle inspections
  • Basic control
  • Backing/docking
  • Speed and space management
  • Night driving
  • Extreme driving conditions
  • Hazard perception
  • Skid control and recovery
  • Roadside inspections
  • Identification
  • Malfunction diagnostics
  • Hours of service
  • Trip planning
  • Medical requirements

These are just a small example of the topics new truck drivers will have to cover. The umbrella topics cover everything from basic vehicle operation to non-driving activities.

For truck drivers seeking to get a first-time hazardous materials endorsement, they will be required to complete an additional 13 topics to pass the curriculum. What the rule does not have in it, however, is a minimum number of hours that new trainees must spend on theory instruction. The most important thing is that they pass it. An assessment is used to determine how well they absorbed the curriculum and if they understand it. Minimum score to pass is 80%.

Examining Behind-the-Wheel ELDT Curriculum

Range and public road instruction are also part of the new ELDT curriculum. In-class training is not the only aspect of this new system that new truckers will have to go through. Behind-the-wheel curriculum is also included.

Seven topics are included with range instruction. For public road instruction, entry-level truckers must learn 12 topics. These topics are broken out between inspections, backing and parking, and vehicle controls, road hazards, and conducting visual inspections.

What won’t be changing is the minimum hours requirement – or lack thereof. There is no minimum for actual drive instruction time. The trainee must, however, repeat the required maneuvers and show proficiency for the concept.

In the end, it won’t be an arbitrary system or subjective process. It will be up to the instructor’s professional judgement on when the new entry-level truck driver is ready. That’s why it will be important for training academies and trucking companies to have their processes fully fleshed out.

Updated Documentation Requirements for ELDT

There will be specific regulations surrounding ELDT recordkeeping and you need to be prepared for it. The last thing you need is an audit rolling through and you are left in the lurch because your documentation is incomplete.

Once an individual completes ELDT, the provider must electronically transmit the information through to the TPR website. And they have until midnight of the second business day from the day the individual completed it. Missing this deadline could be a serious issue for the driver.

Furthermore, training providers are required to keep all training-related documentation on each trainee for a minimum of three years. It is a best practice to keep them if you can. And it never hurts to have archived documentation that you may need later.

It is important to know what documents you must have on hand, regardless of the amount of time you have them. Records that must be tracked include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Individual identification documentation
  • Self-certifications of compliance
  • Copy of the learner’s permit
  • Theory instruction lesson plans
  • Copy of the CDL
  • Registration documentation submitted to the TPR
  • Individual driver training assessments

Also make sure you pay lose attention to local and state-level rules. They may differ from federal requirements. All local guidelines must be followed, or you may be out of compliance.

Innovating on Entry-Level Truck Driver Training

Now that February 2022 is just around the corner, smart fleet managers must begin planning for this change. And unless you are an owner-operator, no matter your size, it is likely you will be bringing on entry-level drivers. With pay at record highs, slowly we are seeing more bodies in the cabs of big rigs. How can you use the new ELTD guidelines to your benefit?

Consider the new tools available to trucking companies who invest in training. Third-party vendors provide online platforms that allow trucking companies to create, manage, and deliver customized courses. With all of it uploaded through an online portal.

Take a livestock hauling company as one example. Fleet managers can create courses and manage regulation updates all from the online portal. To keep truck drivers well informed, refresher courses can be created to include all sorts of topics, from defensive driving to proper vehicle inspections.

Online platforms can also generally be synced up with existing ELD and fleet management systems. Trainers can then access real-time data to be used to better train entry-level truck drivers. With an organized system to monitor progress and focus your attention on the right topics, you’ll be ready for the new February rule rollout.

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