What truckers and lawyers should (and do) have in common

August 31, 2018

Wendy Parker


Per definition, professional licensure “protects the public by enforcing standards that restrict practice to qualified individuals who have met specific qualifications in education, work experience, and exams.”

CDLs are professional licensure,  just like a license to practice law. They both require a standardized education and exams before a license is issued. These are similarities Ray Martinez offered at the news conference in Dallas during the Great American Trucking Show when asked about the driver education rule.

Mr. Martinez’s answer about the possibility of an 18-year-old interstate license rule, prompted questions in regards to pending entry-level driver training rules. The administrator offered enthusiasm for training and education proposed in the 18-year-old rule. He seemed somewhat confused when asked why the same standards weren’t necessary for all recently mandated commercial driver education.

Of note, and also a little confusing, was Administrator Martinez’s assertion that the FMCSA is a “data-driven” agency. He emphasized the agency’s concerned with “enforcing and helping implement laws that protect the public safety.”

That being said, there is data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration clearly indicating under-age drivers “have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience.”

Because of this existing safety data, most states have gone to a graduated driver’s license for under-age drivers. For example, minimum age requirements to begin each step of the Ohio BMV GDL program are as follows: Temporary instruction permit (learner’s permit): 15½ years old. Probationary license: 16 years old. Full driver’s license: 18 years old.

The DRIVE-Safe Act, introduced in March of 2018 by Reps. Duncan Hunter, (R-Calif.) and  Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.), would require prospective 18- to 20-year-old interstate truckers to operate at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time.  All training would be required under the direct supervision of an experienced driver and restricted to trucks equipped with active braking systems, video monitoring systems and speed limiters set to 65 mph or slower.

On one hand, Martinez’s understanding and enthusiasm for proposed mandatory practical driving hours (in a real, live truck) is encouraging. His ability to relate it to the practical hours he was tasked to perform before being allowed to test for the bar exam indicates an understanding for the need.

On the other hand, his apparent confusion over whether or not a minimum mandated number of practical driving hours were eviscerated from the current driver training rule was somewhat disheartening. To his credit, he is still very new at the job. Also to his credit, and the reason I find the pending training rule disappointing as a whole, is that I believe he’s smart enough to know that driver training, at any age, is the true root of safety.

Here’s a quick comparison, just to hammer home how ridiculous it is to have dropped a mandatory number of supervised, practical driving hours from any driver training rule.

In the state of Alabama, to become a licensed cosmetologist, you are required to complete 1,500 hours of accredited cosmetology school training. This is just to be able to apply for the ability to sit for the license exam. Or you can do 3,000 hours of practical apprenticeship.

In comparison, the ELDT, Entry Level Driver Training Rule, set to go into effect in 2020, has this: “The rule does not require any minimum number of (behind-the-wheel) hours for the completion of any of the BTW (e.g., Class A, Class B and the P and S endorsements). The proficient completion of the BTW portions of the various curricula is based solely on the training instructor’s assessment of each driver-trainee’s individual performance of the required elements of BTW training on the range and public road. All BTW training must be conducted in a representative vehicle for the CDL class or endorsement being sought.”

 Which effectively equates to this: Nothing. Nada. No room at the inn. Bye’, Felicia.

So here’s the deal. If the cosmetology licensing boards have been able to come to the conclusion that requiring people to learn to use sharp things around the general public’s face and head might benefit from including a mandated minimum number of training hours, while actually holding the aforementioned sharp objects in their hands, why the hell can’t the FMCSA understand that driver training should require a mandated number of hours driving a damn truck?

Safety. Begins. With. Training.