FMCSA delays driver training implementation until 2022

November 26, 2019

Jami Jones

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Rather than roll out the entry-level driver training rule in phases, as proposed earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has opted to punt the implementation of the entire rule for two more years.

It was 30-plus years in the making, but a driver training regulation was officially a done deal on Dec. 7, 2016, when the final rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published in the Federal Register. It was set to go into effect on Feb. 7, 2020, giving the industry, state and federal agencies four years to prep for the new requirements.

The final rule details the curriculum for individuals seeking Class A and Class B CDLs to drive trucks and/or buses. Additional curriculum segments are included for specialized niches like hazardous materials. The final rule was later amended to ease the transition from Class B to Class A licenses in May, reducing some of the theory curriculum requirements.

The rule does not include a specified amount of time required for behind-the-wheel training for either the range or on-road training. Instead, the agency opted for a proficiency-based approach that will accommodate individuals who learn at different paces. The trainers will be required to check off on a list of skills as each is mastered.

The agency blamed the inability to quantify the benefit of requiring a set number of hours behind the wheels, but said it would study the results of training without a requirement and make adjustments in the future if necessary.

The regulation also will restrict those who can train entry-level drivers to those registered with the agency. The registry will allow the agency to track successes, and failures, of training providers. Trainers with substandard performance can face removal from the registry and would no longer be permitted to train new drivers.

Those provisions led to the initial proposal in July to postpone parts of the final rule.

Two provisions in the rule – the date for training providers to upload entry-level training certification information into the Training Provider Registry and the date for state driver licensing agencies to receive driver-specific entry-level driver training information – would be extended two years to Feb. 7, 2022.

Land Line Now confirmed that the agency is now poised to postpone the entire rule for two more years.

An FMCSA spokesman confirmed that following a careful review of the public comments regarding the entry-level training rule, FMCSA is extending the rule’s implementation for two years. This extension is reflective of the agency’s continued efforts to develop a secure and effective electronic trainer provider registry for the new rule. The agency remains committed to making the implementation of the rule as efficient and effective as possible.

In August, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told the FMCSA that there shouldn’t be further delays in implementing federal entry-level driver training rules. OOIDA has supported the creation of a minimum national standard for entry-level driver training, arguing that improving training would promote highway safety.

OOIDA says delay ‘contradicts’ safety

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a long proponent of a driver training standard, says the delay “contradicts” safety.

For decades, OOIDA has supported national driver training standards and the association was an active participant in the negotiated rulemaking process that began in 2015.

“The December 2016 final rulemaking established a three-year compliance period that should have been sufficient for the agency and the states to prepare for next year’s implementation date. Any further extensions will only delay the safety benefits that will come from more comprehensive entry-level driver training requirements,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said.

“Delaying the rule directly contradicts FMCSA’s mission of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks. Truckers will tell you the best way to promote safety is improving the driver training requirements and right now too many new drivers enter the industry without the basic skills or knowledge to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The two-year delay does, in turn, present some opportunity for improvement in the rule.

“While the regulations that were expected to take effect next year would have undoubtedly improved highway safety, the rulemaking still did not include any behind-the-wheel instruction necessary for acquiring a CDL. This is difficult to comprehend when you look at some industries with far less public safety implications that require hundreds if not thousands of hours of training before licensing individuals,” Spencer said. “Even within transportation, commercial pilots typically need at least 250 hours of actual flight time before they can be licensed. If the regs are delayed another two years, OOIDA will continue working with Congress and FMCSA in order to establish substantive, mandatory minimum standards for behind-the-wheel training before the next implementation date.”

 

Jami Jones

Jami Jones has been in journalism since 1991 – focused on the trucking industry since 2000. Whether judging Shell SuperRigs or writing hard-hitting analyses, she covers trucking from lug nuts to legislation – always with the trucker in mind.