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March 15, 2016
FMCSA proposes new driver training requirements
By Emily Scace, Senior Editor, Safety

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced a proposal to expand training requirements for entry-level commercial drivers. Keep reading to find out the details.

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The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on March 7, would require first-time commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants, drivers seeking a license upgrade or an additional endorsement, and previously disqualified CDL holders seeking to reacquire a license to undergo training that meets the standards specified in the rule. If enacted, the compliance date would be 3 years after the effective date of the final rule.

The training would consist of a combination of behind-the-wheel and classroom elements, with the specifics depending on the type of license the applicant is seeking. There is no proposed minimum number of hours that driver trainees must spend on classroom training, but the training must cover all required curriculum topics appropriate for the type of license or endorsement the applicant is seeking.

Applicants seeking a Class A CDL, which is necessary for operating a combination tractor-trailer vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds (lbs) or more, would need to obtain at least 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training, including a minimum of 10 hours of operating the vehicle on a practice driving range.

Applicants seeking a Class B CDL, which is necessary for operating a heavy straight truck such as a dump truck or box truck or a school bus, city transit bus, or motorcoach, would be required to obtain at least 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training, including a minimum of 7 hours of practice range training.

The proposed rule would not apply to military drivers, farmers, and firefighters.

Requirements for training providers

To comply with the proposed rule, driver training must be given by a provider listed on the FMCSA’s proposed Training Provider Registry (TPR). Training providers must submit a training certificate for each individual who completes the training electronically to the FMCSA. To be eligible to appear on the TPR, training providers would need to teach a training curriculum that meets all FMCSA standards for entry-level drivers and would have to follow rules governing instructor qualifications, course administration, issuance of training certificates, and training vehicles.

One set of eligibility requirements would apply to in-house or school training providers that train or expect to train more than three drivers per year, and a separate set of requirements would apply to small business or for-hire training providers that train or expect to train three or fewer drivers per year.

Costs and benefits

The FMCSA estimates that the proposed rule would cost approximately $5.55 billion over 10 years. Costs include tuition expenses, opportunity costs of time while in training, compliance audit costs, and costs associated with the implementation of the Training Provider Registry.

However, the FMCSA believes that these costs would be balanced by the benefits to CMV operators, the trucking industry, the traveling public, and to the environment. The training requirements are predicted to improve driver performance, in turn reducing the frequency and severity of crashes. The agency believes that training could also reduce CO2 emissions by teaching more fuel-efficient driving techniques, as well as lowering maintenance and repair costs though its promotion of safer, more efficient driving.

Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted through April 6, 2016, at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FMCSA-2007-27748-0916.

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