Driver training committee leaves door open to owner-operator training

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Monday, March 23, 2015

The concept that new drivers need training is accepted pretty much universally. But when you get down to the brass tacks of what that training will be, who can give it, and how it’s going to be regulated, that’s where universal acceptance and agreement ends.

Finding a middle ground and reaching consensus on answering all of those questions about what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should mandate when it comes to driver training is the core mission of the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee.

The committee just wrapped up its second two-day meeting, of the six scheduled, this past Thursday and Friday, March 19-20. And, while a third of the way through the planned meetings, agreement on core issues like what individuals the driver training regulations will even apply to has yet to be reached.

However, the tide began to turn after the Friday lunch break.

One key issue of concern for the members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been whether, under the forthcoming regulations, they would be able to train friends or family they want to have work for them.

When it came to occasional training of a child or a friend, there was universal concern that any new regulations would prohibit such a legacy approach to the small-business portion of the industry.

Following the lunch break, OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth gave a presentation centered on the accountability of training providers. He recommended a registry of programs and trainers that could be monitored by FMCSA for programs and trainers with substandard results.

That presentation opened the door for a bigger conversation as to who would be permitted to train new drivers under any new regulations. Fortunately, under the current highway funding law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (or MAP-21), owners and operators of motor carriers – i.e., owner-operators – are to be permitted to train under the mandated regs.

The idea of permitting owner-operators and small-business operators the opportunity to register as trainers and provide training to a limited number of people annually gained quick support – even from FMCSA.

Larry Minor, associate administrator for policy for FMCSA, said a registry of training programs and trainers would certainly give FMCSA a mechanism to track and monitor providers. It would also give the agency a way to ensure the validity of the training certificates that will be provided to individuals who have successfully completed training and passed any required testing, he said.

The reasons for allowing small-business truckers to be able to train someone occasionally continued to mount throughout the afternoon.

Depending on what research you look at, annually there are anywhere between 400,000 and 600,000 CDLs issued. There is not a clear breakdown on how many of those are first-time CDLs and how many are renewals. But the group agreed that the number of potential trainees could tax the existing training providers, and allowing a small exemption or exception could help alleviate the demands on training providers.

The full committee spent the remainder of the afternoon in smaller sub-committees wrangling with issues like the most daunting task of arriving at a cost-benefit analysis in addition to addressing needs of hazmat and passenger endorsements and accreditation/certification/accountability.

The next meeting of the committee is planned for April 9, 10 in Arlington, Va.

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