Driver training committee finds consensus on behind-the-wheel time

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Friday, May 29, 2015

In Washington, D.C., a committee tasked with developing recommendations for a rule on entry-level driver training for truck and bus drivers has come to a consensus on language to present to the FMCSA on or before June 15. Among them are a required number of hours behind-the-wheel and the creation of a new national registry for driver trainers.

The Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee – an appointed group of 26 stakeholders in transportation, safety and education – has met for six two-day sessions this year to find consensus as part of a negotiated rulemaking. OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth represents the Association on the committee and went to bat on the issues of behind-the-wheel training and core curriculum.

Land Line Magazine Managing Editor Jami Jones was in D.C. to cover the committee’s final session that concluded Friday, May 29. She reports that committee members had gone to the mat during discussions about whether a training course should require a certain number of hours behind the wheel. It took a while to get there, she says, but in the end, the committee decided the answer was yes.

“They did come to an agreement, but it was a topic that would come up and hit an impasse. And they would leave it for a while and come back to it. It took at least three attempts today to come to a consensus on hours behind the wheel,” Jones said Friday. One of the reasons was the different levels of commercial driver’s license.

For a Class A CDL, the committee is recommending a minimum of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training, consisting of a minimum of 10 hours on the range and a minimum of 10 hours on the road broken up by multiple trips. The remaining 10 hours could be broken up between the range and the road.

Jones said the committee is recommending that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration develop a national registry of driver trainers, not all that far off from what FMCSA created for medical examiners.

“You’ll have to register to be a trainer,” she said, adding that the registry would consist of different levels including one for a single operator who wants to train up to three people per year. Owner-operator Bryan Spoon, an appointed member of the driver training committee, fought hard to make sure the small-time trainer would be able to train a friend or family member.

“Small operators have the door open to be trainers as long as they don’t train more than three people a year,” Jones reported. “They would be certified as a small trainer.”

The committee did not recommend there be any fee associated with being part of a national registry, but trainers may incur expenses in obtaining an approved curriculum.

Important at this stage, Jones said, is that the driver training committee considers its recommendations to be a “term paper.” It is not the rule, and there will still be a public comment process.

“What they have agreed upon will serve as a framework for FMCSA to file a notice of proposed rulemaking, but the public will still get a chance to comment and provide input,” she said. “This does not shut out the public at all. They’ll get their crack at that later this year with the goal of FMCSA having a final rule in 2016.”

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