SPECIAL REPORT: FMCSA withdraws previous driver training proposal

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 9/19/2013

A previous proposed driver training rule has been withdrawn by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration according to a notice published in the Federal Register Sept. 19.

The notice states that the notice of proposed rulemaking, published in 2007, is withdrawn because of issues raised at the listening sessions earlier this year and new directives contained in MAP-21, the current highway funding law Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

The agency claims it would be “inappropriate” to move forward with a final rule that would be based, in part, on the notice of proposed rulemaking. “The agency has concluded that a new rulemaking should be initiated in lieu of completing the 2007 rulemaking.

While the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sees the withdrawal as possibly a step back in the effort to enact mandatory entry-level driver training, the Association also sees it as an opportunity to address the core issues more effectively.

“The rulemaking did seem to be mired in detail of bureaucracy, while missing the real focus. The critical elements are the quality of the person or people providing the training; that the curriculum being taught reflects the real world that drivers will encounter and need to be prepared for; and qualifications of the examiner who determines if the student is equipped to safely operate commercial motor vehicles,” Spencer said.

“Some people will learn faster than others. The agency shouldn’t get bogged down in minutiae, and all that is important is the outcome and that is someone properly trained to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.”

Spencer said a glaring example of inadequate training was the recent edict passed down by Celadon management to avoid using cruise control in inclement weather.

“Decades ago in high school driver’s ed in Oak Grove, Mo., they were teaching kids not to use cruise control in bad weather or in heavy traffic,” Spencer said. “That just goes to show you that there isn’t any question that CDL driver training needs much, much greater scrutiny.”

Many of the issues the agency raises in this notice withdrawing the previous driver training proposal are lined out in the OOIDA Truckers for Safety agenda, Spencer pointed out.

“The agency has outlined a plan for moving forward with a new proposal, and we intend to hold the agency accountable to Congress’ directive to implement a driver training regulation. They have ignored a court-ordered mandate forever; we’re not about to let them ignore Congress, too,” Spencer said.

In moving forward, the agency is tasking a Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee with providing ideas the agency should consider in implementing the MAP-21 requirements.

In addition to the MCSAC directive, the agency is also in the process of conducting two research projects to gather supporting information on the effectiveness of entry-level driver training.

The first study will randomly sample CDL holders who received their license in the past three years and were recently employed as commercial motor vehicle drivers. The drivers’ safety performance data will be taken from the Motor Carrier Management Information System – the system that supplies data to the pre-employment screening program and CSA – and the Commercial Driver License Information System.

The second study will gather information from various sources to identify the relationship of training to safety performance. The sources include motor carriers; CDL training schools; and state driver’s license agency records on recently issued CDLs. This study will also review safety performance of drivers in two states with regs dealing with driver training.

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