By Jami Jones
The days of going to school and getting a CDL without ever getting behind the wheel could be coming to an end thanks to a proposed driver training rule unveiled by FMCSA.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a “notice of proposed rulemaking” in the Federal Register in December that proposes 44 hours of behind-the-wheel training in addition to 76 hours of classroom time before potential truckers can test for and receive a Class A CDL.
“This is a great step forward by FMCSA,” OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Rick Craig said. “It’s just common sense that in order to learn to drive a truck, you must actually drive one. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it is right now.”
Behind-the-wheel training still is not required to this point, even though Congress passed legislation in 1991 directing that it be included. Thirteen years after that direction, FMCSA rolled out a driver training rule that did not include a requirement for any behind-the-wheel training.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and two safety advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit against FMCSA in 2004 because the regulation at that time did not require any training behind the wheel.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling in December 2005 that sent the minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers back to the agency because the regulation did not require any time behind the wheel.
The new proposed regulation not only requires students to actually spend some time behind the wheel, but also requires them to do it at an accredited school with qualified instructors on staff.
The truck driving schools will have to be accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This would also apply to schools operated by trucking companies.
“Requiring schools to go through the accreditation process and forcing teachers to actually be certified will go a long way toward eliminating these fly-by-night truck driving schools,” Craig said.
Craig said if FMCSA had simply required behind-the-wheel time without addressing the fact there’s a big problem with driver training schools around the country, the proposed rule would have been worthless.
“You see it all the time, these schools that are just in it for the money. We hear of schools graduating students who haven’t driven a truck at all or even attended a class for that matter,” he said. “Under the proposed regulation, it will be almost impossible for these schools to exist.”
The actual behind-the-wheel training must include shifting, backing, speed management, space management, night operations and extreme driving conditions, to name a few.
Once students complete the required classroom and behind-the-wheel training, they will be given a driver training certificate to be presented to the state driver’s license agency as part of the CDL application process.
“The Association has fought for driver training for decades,” Craig said. “This proposed rule shows that if you are persistent enough, common sense can prevail.”
FMCSA is seeking comments on the proposed regulation. The public has until March 25 to file comments on the proposed regulation. For details on how to file comments, turn to Page 19 of this issue or visit www.landlinemag.com and look under the “Hot Topics” header. LL