New driver training rule almost here

January 10, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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Beginning next month, a long-anticipated entry-level driver training rule will go into effect.

The new standards take effect Feb. 7.

The regulations set the baseline for training requirements for entry-level drivers. This includes those applying to:

  • Obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time.
  • Upgrade an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL.
  • Obtain a school bus, passenger, or hazardous materials endorsement for the first time.

The regulations are not retroactive.

“Beginning Feb. 7, 2022, the new entry-level driver training regulations will require certain CDL applicants to complete training before being permitted to take the required skills or knowledge test,” FMCSA wrote. “Training is not required if your (commercial learner’s permit) is issued prior to Feb. 7, so long as you obtain your CDL before your CLP or renewed CLP expires.”

A long road

It has been more than five years since the entry-level driver training rule, which details the curriculum for individuals seeking a CDL, was published on Dec. 7, 2016. At the time, the rule was set to go into effect on Feb. 7, 2020. However, just before the rule was set to take effect, FMCSA officially delayed implementation for two years so the agency would have time to complete the Training Provider Registry. OOIDA opposed the delay, saying the decision was in direct contradiction to FMCSA’s mission to reduce crashes.

The rule does not include a specified amount of time required for behind-the-wheel training for either the range or on-the-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 Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said the rule didn’t go far enough, and said that the new standards should only be a start.

During a driver retention roundtable discussion in July, OOIDA President Todd Spencer described the status quo as “absolute lunacy.”

“The driver training stuff … Jeez, we have so far to go in those areas,” Spencer said. “It is absolute lunacy that we have big carriers today that’ll have a trainer and a trainee in the truck, and the trainer may have no more than six months of experience. And they go down the road, and that passes as acceptable.”

Spencer acknowledged the incoming rule as progress but said the work is not done.

“We supported from the very beginning of our organization (OOIDA started in 1973) the need for better training,” Spencer said. “We haven’t gotten there yet. I appreciate what FMCSA has done, but it should be just a starter thing.”

Training Provider Registry

FMCSA launched a Training Provider Registry in 2021 to “help commercial driver’s license applicants connect with training providers who are self-certified to provide entry-level driver training.”

By entering an email address, truckers can sign up to receive information on entry-level driver requirements, requirements for training providers, registering as a training provider, training requirements and curricula, state driver’s license agency requirements, and website enhancements or new resources. LL

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.