SPECIAL REPORT: Feds propose 44 hours of behind-the-wheel training

| 12/26/2007

Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007 – The days of going to school and getting a CDL without ever getting behind the wheel are 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 today 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 their Class A CDL.

Behind-the-wheel training has not been 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 they 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.

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.

FMCSA is seeking comments on the proposed regulation. The public has until March 25 to file comments on the proposed regulation. The Docket number for the proposed rule is FMCSA-2007-27748. If you are going to comment online, you will need the Document ID number. That is FMCSA-2007-27748-0001. Click here to see how to comment.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor