A piece of legislation that continues to advance at the California statehouse is intended to improve safety on the state’s roadways by implementing new federal commercial driver regulations. Additional truck driver safety requirements also would be added.
The Assembly Transportation Committee voted to advance an amended bill to implement a federal rule that requires people seeking a commercial driver’s license to complete a certified course of instruction from a commercial driving institution or program offered by an employer before being issued a license.
Specifically, the Department of Motor Vehicles would be required to adopt regulations to comply with the federal rule by June 5, 2020. The bill, SB1236, would also establish minimum behind-the-wheel training requirements to be completed as part of CDL training.
Senate lawmakers approved the bill a year ago but it died in the Assembly without getting a floor vote. Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, brought back the bill for consideration in an effort to get the state to act to ensure that commercial truck and bus drivers are being held to the highest safety standards.
He has described the legislation as “a sensible measure that will help save lives by requiring drivers of big rigs and other large commercial vehicles to have driving experience before being licensed in California.”
The bill sponsor has highlighted data from the California Highway Patrol that shows 10,062 at-fault commercial vehicle collisions reported in 2014, of which 2,432 resulted in injury and 68 were fatal.
Monning singled out a 2014 crash on Highway 17, when a truck crashed into 10 vehicles, injuring seven and killing Daniel McGuire of Santa Cruz, Calif. He added that the driver’s lack of adequate training and experience was deemed a major factor in the incident.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the legislation. OOIDA has nearly 6,000 members residing in the state and thousands more who operate on the California highways each day.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA manager of government affairs, says the Association supports the development of national entry-level driver training standards for CDL applicants.
He points out that a final rule on entry-level driver training standards published in December 2016 by the feds does not include a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.
“While the final rule will improve driver training and highway safety, it does not include a requirement that CDL applicants receive a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.”
Matousek adds that SB1236 would address the oversight by requiring CDL applicants in California to complete a minimum number of hours behind the wheel of a truck.
Class A or Class B license applicants would need to complete 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training, of which 10 hours must be on a public road.
The Assembly Transportation Committee voted to amend the hour requirement. The panel decided to cut from 30 hours to 15 hours the necessary behind-the-wheel training for Class A license applicants. The minimum number of hours on public roads for Class B license applicants also was increased from seven to 10 hours.
Every 50 minutes of driving would be deemed to be one hour of training.
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