The American Trucking Associations, on March 4, pledged their support of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new entry-level driver training requirements.
FMCSA proposes new training standards for individuals applying for an initial CDL, an upgrade of their CDL1 (e.g., a Class B CDL holder seeking a Class A CDL), or a hazardous materials, passenger, or school bus endorsement for their license. (Military drivers, farmers, and firefighters are generally excepted from the CDL requirements in part 383, and they are excepted from this proposed rule, FMCSA notes.)
The curricula generally are subdivided into theory and behind-the-wheel (BTW) (range and public road) segments.
There is no proposed minimum number of hours that driver-trainees must spend on the theory portions of any of the individual curricula. The NPRM does propose that Class A CDL driver-trainees must receive a minimum of 30 hours of BTW training, with a minimum of 10 hours on a driving range. Driving on a public road would also be required, and Class A CDL driver-trainees may fulfill this requirement by either driving 10 hours on a public road, or by driving 10 public road trips (each no less than 50 minutes in duration).
However the organization did take issue with one of the required elements.
“This rule does a good job of outlining the knowledge and skills a new driver should have before heading out on the road, but ATA is concerned that an arbitrary requirement centered on behind- the-wheel training hours distracts from a more important focus on performance and safety outcomes,” said ATA CEO Bill Graves.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is the result of a negotiated rulemaking that ATA, along with other stakeholder groups, participated in. During that process, ATA repeatedly emphasized that demonstrating the ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle was far more important than the number of hours of instruction or practice a new driver received.
“Some prospective drivers may demonstrate proficiency before reaching an arbitrary minimum hours requirement, but more concerning is the possibility that achieving this time threshold will erroneously convey competence and possession of the skills needed to safely drive,” Graves said.
"While the proposed rule takes important strides toward ensuring that new truck drivers meet minimum training standards, we are hopeful that the final rule will be more focused on performance outcomes,” said ATA chairman Pat Thomas, senior vice president, state government affairs for UPS.