Driver training committee continues to find sticking points

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 4/9/2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., Thursday, April 9, 2015 – For a committee tasked with finding agreement on a driver training mandate, that agreement continues to be elusive on key points.

The Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee is in the midst of its third of six two-day meetings here in Washington, D.C. 

Heading into the April 9-10 meetings, the committee of 26 industry stakeholders still had not settled on who any driver training mandate would apply to. That question still has not been answered.

The committee is in agreement that any mandated training should be required of anyone seeking a commercial driver’s license for the first time.

Agreement ends there. A faction is seeking to also loop in individuals who have let their CDL lapse or become suspended, revoked or invalidated. 

The arguments against retraining individuals who are seeking to reinstate their CDL vary.

The committee is to comply with marching orders set out by Congress in the current highway funding law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21.

One argument against retraining of reinstatements is that MAP-21 mandates that only people seeking their CDL for the first time be subject to the developing regulation.

A second argument centers on any potential increase in the cost of the regulation. 

Simply, every regulation must pass a cost-benefit analysis. Common sense dictates that the more people subject to a regulation, the more it could cost. In order to pass the cost-benefit analysis, the benefit must outweigh the cost. 

By including reinstatements in this mandate, there would likely be an increase in the cost, some committee members argue. Others plead a “just makes sense” argument.

The final sticking point is how long the lapse of a valid CDL would need to be for the average individual to need retraining.

Answers to the three arguments proved elusive, thereby continuing the stall of defining who a driver training regulation would apply to.

Pieces fall into place
Work on the driver training regulation is not restricted to the meetings in Washington, D.C. A lot of work is being handled at committee level via conference calls and email in between meetings.

One such committee is the core curriculum group, a group tasked with figuring out what should be taught. 

Starting broadly, the group developed a set of topic areas. Generally speaking, the full committee agreed for the most part on what should be included in the mandated training.

Items like basic control, backing and docking, speed management and space management drew little discussion and no opposition.

However, night driving and whether actual night driving should be required proved to be very divisive.

The lone active truck driver, owner-operator Bryan Spoon, addressed the on-the-road realities of daytime versus nighttime driving drawing audible support from proponents of night time training.

A countering measure of the cost to schools to stage night driving classes was quickly struck back against by OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth.

Grenerth pointed to recent regulations the agency deployed on the industry with little cost-benefit analysis.

“You can’t pick and choose when you apply the standard,” Grenerth said.

Discussion on night driving, like the definition of who will be subject to the rule, ended without a clear decision.

Clock is ticking 
After Friday, April 10, the committee will be halfway through its scheduled six meetings.

Friday’s discussion will tackle certification/accreditation/accountability, the portion of the rule that will govern the training providers and individual trainers – including small-business truckers who may want to train a friend or family member.

In the previous meeting of the committee, there was general agreement that the rule should accommodate small-business truckers who want to provide training only on an occasional basis. 

With large elements still hanging out there undecided, coupled with adding projections for small-business owner-operators to provide limited training, there remains a lot more to do at this stage.

At its first meeting, the committee voted to try to complete its work and attempt consensus at the completion of its May 29 session and provide its decision to FMCSA by June 15.

The next meeting is slated for April 23-24.

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