Driver training proposal sent to White House for approval

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The long-awaited proposed regulation on driver training for new drivers to the trucking industry has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

As of press time, the notice of proposed rulemaking submitted to OMB in early November is expected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to clear sometime in early December and be published later in the month.

For more than 30 years, there has been a push to have required training for entry-level truck drivers – ones who have never had a commercial driver's license before. FMCSA made a couple of failed attempts at mandating the training in the past. Both regulations were unceremoniously tossed out by the courts.

This time around, the FMCSA took a new approach to coming up with the training that anyone seeking their CDL would have to complete. The agency initiated a negotiated rulemaking. In short, the agency selected 26 industry stakeholders, put together an intense schedule of meetings, and asked the diverse group to agree on what the agency should include in any driver training regulation.

The group included representatives from all segments of the industry, including associations such as OOIDA and ATA, trucking schools, trucking companies, special-interest lobbying groups and one owner-operator.

The committee met for six two-day sessions earlier this year to find consensus as part of a negotiated rulemaking. The working statement released by the committee serves as a framework for the NPRM submitted by FMCSA to OMB.

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century – or MAP-21 – only mandated training for pre-CDL holders.

Many members expressed throughout the process the hope that this rulemaking will serve as the first steps in improving the quality of drivers entering the industry.

Groups that typically find themselves at odds over nearly every issue being pitched, from electronic logs to longer-heavier trucks found a tremendous amount of common ground.

Targeting CDL mills and substandard training was the common purpose that initially drew the group together. Everyone recognized that certification of training providers and trainers, a comprehensive core curriculum, and certification standards were keys to ensuring quality training in the future.

The group settled on core curriculum requirements for Class A, Class B, passenger endorsement, school bus endorsement, hazardous materials endorsement, and refresher training for individuals who have not held an active CDL for four years or more.

The curriculum tackles what will be taught in a classroom environment as well as behind the wheel.

Obviously some of the training includes non-vehicle-related skills and knowledge that truck drivers must have. Understanding of the hours-of-service, drug and alcohol and medical requirement regulations; handling and documenting cargo; environmental compliance; and accident and post-crash procedures are included in the core curriculum that the committee agreed on. The theory and classroom component will also work to familiarize and educate students on various aspects of driving the truck.

The behind-the-wheel component of the training is a performance-based curriculum that is required to be at least 30 hours in duration with 10 designated on the range, 10 on the road, and 10 more for where the student would receive the most benefit.

The committee's final consensus on training was outlined in a written statement to FMCSA. As part of the negotiated rulemaking process and agreed upon ground rules, FMCSA agrees to use the written statement and any recommended regulations as the basis for the notice of proposed rulemaking to the maximum extent possible, consistent with the agency's legal obligations.

The details of the proposed regulation submitted to OMB are not yet public. That will happen once the proposal is published in the Federal Register and opened to comments from the public. The agency's latest plan, as of press time, was for the proposal to clear OMB mid-December and publish toward the end of the month followed by a 60-day comment period. LL