DRIVER TRAINING: Decades later, still no entry-level training required

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 4/2/2014

The history of entry-level training for truck drivers is decades long, yet a national standard still does not exist. OOIDA is working to change that.

Following is a timeline that shows various efforts, proposals and comments related to entry-level training – and the push to make it a national priority.

1935 – The Motor Carrier Act of 1935 directs the secretary of transportation to promote the safe operation of commercial vehicles.

1976 – The Federal Highway Administration issues an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on “recommended practices” to improve training for commercial drivers. Data shows that drivers have more accidents during their first few months of employment.

Early 1980s – The administration’s Office of Motor Carriers calls for technical guidance on truck-driver training.

1985 – The Office of Motor Carriers issues a 320-hour “Model Curriculum for Training Tractor-Trailer Drivers.” It includes at least 208 hours of actual driving: 92 hours on off-street driving ranges and 116 hours on actual streets. In comments to the administration, a number of big motor carriers argue that it would be too expensive to train drivers.

1986 – President Ronald Reagan signs the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act into law, requiring all commercial drivers to possess a CDL, which is based on knowledge and skills testing but no training behind the wheel.

1986 – Motor carrier groups, training schools and insurance companies create the Professional Truck Driver Training Institute, known as PTDI to certify high-quality training programs.

1991 – President George H.W. Bush signs the highway bill known as the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act – ISTEA – into law. In part, it directs the secretary of transportation to begin a rulemaking on entry-level driver training. It also calls for a study of private-sector training programs.

June 21, 1993 – The Office of Motor Carriers launches the rulemaking process for entry-level driver training, asking 13 questions related to standards and curriculum requirements.

1995 – The Office of Motor Carriers, as part of the rulemaking process, releases a cost-benefit analysis based on a 10-year period and 1995-value dollars. For the worst-case scenario, there would be a $1.32 billion net benefit to requiring a 148-hour curriculum. The best-case scenario shows an $11.08 billion net benefit.

1995 – A study titled “Assessing the Adequacy of Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Training” concludes that effective training should include behind-the-wheel instruction. The study, however, questions the link between driver training and the reduction of crashes. A research and technical study the same year cites inadequate training of truckers as an area of concern. 

Though the statement appears contradictory, the Adequacy Report stated that while training is a necessary condition for the reduction of accidents, it is not a sufficient condition, and something more has to be done in order for training to have its effect.  The “something more” the FHWA mentioned was formal training for CMV drivers to assure that all the necessary knowledge and skills are covered, and utilizing a structure that will maximize the chance of learning.

1999 – Congress scraps the Office of Motor Carriers and creates the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The law transfers motor carrier safety to the new FMCSA, which inherits the driver-training proposal.

1999 – PTDI publishes standards for entry-level training courses, covering skills, curriculum and certification. The group calls for 44 hours of behind-the-wheel training in addition to classroom education.

November 2002 – OOIDA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and United Motor Coach Association file a lawsuit challenging FMCSA to write a rule that includes behind-the-wheel training for entry-level truck drivers.

Aug. 15, 2003 – FMCSA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking, soliciting comments from stakeholders. The notice defines an entry-level driver as a person with less than two years of experience, replacing a previous definition of five years. The notice stops short of suggesting a specific number of hours for behind-the-wheel training, but requires employers to keep a driver’s certificate of training in the driver’s personnel file.

May 21, 2004 – Thirteen years after receiving its initial mandate from Congress, FMCSA issues a final rule on driver training. But it steers clear of behind-the-wheel standards and requires only 10 hours of non-driving training. It also redefines an entry-level driver as someone with less than one year of experience.

July 1, 2004 – OOIDA and the two safety groups appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to force FMCSA back to the drawing board to require on-road training.

August 2005 – President George W. Bush signs a five-year highway bill, SAFETEA-LU, into law. It includes grants to states to implement driver training but does not force the FMCSA’s hand to implement a federal training standard.

Dec. 2, 2005 – OOIDA and the safety groups win their appeal, and the Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit orders FMCSA to rework its 2004 rule. Judge Harry T. Edwards says that for a driver-training program to be adequate, it must include on-road training. His ruling, however, does not vacate the 2004 final rule.

2006 – In a study, the Transportation Research Board outlines six inadequacies related to CMV driver training, and poses a question about who trains the trainers.

Dec. 26, 2007 – FMCSA publishes a proposed rule in the Federal Register to make revisions and specify minimum classroom and behind-the-wheel training from accredited institutions or programs.

May 23, 2008 – OOIDA files comments on the proposed rule, recommending at least 55 hours of basic operation behind the wheel and supporting a national accreditation program for all training facilities.

Nov. 1, 2011 – A provision of existing law takes effect, requiring drivers of longer-combination vehicles to have special training for those vehicles.

July 6, 2012 – President Obama signs into law a two-year highway bill known as MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. It requires the secretary of transportation to issue final regulations “establishing minimum entry-level training requirements for an individual operating a commercial vehicle.”

October 2012 – OOIDA issues a white paper highlighting the fact that there is still no national standardized requirement for behind-the-wheel training of entry-level CMV operators. The paper blasts “CDL mills” that offer as few as 90 minutes of instruction to “pass” a commercial driving test and only a few hours of hands-on training.

March 22, 2013 – FMCSA holds a listening session on driver training as part of the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

June 25, 2013 – OOIDA launches Truckers for Safety, a campaign to address the biggest safety gap in the trucking industry – the lack of basic training standards for new drivers. The Association is urging Congress to include entry-level standards in the next highway bill.

Sept. 19, 2013 – FMCSA withdraws its 2007 proposed rule, saying it would be “inappropriate” to issue a final rule based on that document. Truckers view this as a step back but also as an opportunity to move forward with training provisions called for in MAP-21. FMCSA directs the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to provide ideas for implementing MAP-21 requirements. FMCSA has also commissioned two research projects to gather supporting information on the effectiveness of driver training.

Present day – Entry-level driver training does not currently appear as an official pursuit in FMCSA’s regulatory agenda.

Timeline compiled from research and Land Line staff notes.

Copyright © OOIDA