Road to safety starts with driver training

October 14, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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I’ll admit it. When I started at Land Line about several years ago, I didn’t know too much about the trucking industry.

I was hired for my years of journalism experience as a reporter and editor at several newspapers. Since the day I joined Land Line, I’ve been participating in a never-ending crash course on the trucking industry. There aren’t many days that go by that I don’t learn something about the inner workings of the FMCSA or pick up a nugget about what the job entails through a conversation with a driver.

Some of the information I’ve learned over the years has been extremely logical, while some has caught me off guard.

However, one revelation stands out as being the most shocking.

Early in my tenure, the Land Line staff was conducting one of its morning news meetings and someone mentioned the creation of an entry-level driver training rule. Surely, it was just strengthening a preexisting driver training rule.

Nope.

I was informed that there was no entry-level driver training rule on the books. Even worse, I learned that the forthcoming rule still didn’t include a minimum number of behind-the-wheel training hours.

How could lawmakers and regulators continually talk about the need to make trucking safer and let all these years pass without passing a rule regarding the most obvious route to safety – a well-trained driver? Can you imagine getting on a flight and learning that the pilot required no formal training?

While it was shocking, I figured at least the industry was finally headed in the right direction. The initial entry-level driver training rule would go into effect, and then a stronger rule with behind-the-wheel requirements would surely follow.

But then the rule kept getting delayed. And even when the rule finally took effect this past February, various driver training schools, companies and states bombarded the FMCSA with exemption requests.

That was all bad enough. Earlier this month, however, the doozy arrived.

On Oct. 7, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., introduced a bill to repeal FMCSA’s rule, titled “Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators.” Although the text for HR9153 still has not been released, the title of the bill seems pretty clear. Good and the five co-sponsors who support this bill appear to have their sights set on ending a decades-long effort at establishing a minimum standard of training for commercial truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations handbook, which is thicker than a telephone book from the 1980s, is full of requirements that are purportedly all about improving safety.

But how can anyone claim to be dedicated to improving safety in trucking while doing nothing to make sure truck drivers are adequately trained before they start hauling loads across the country?

Like I said before, I’ve learned a lot about trucking since I joined Land Line seven years ago. But this is something I will never understand. LL

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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.