Driver training rule effective date delayed

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 1/31/2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration delayed the entry-level driver training regulation effective date to March 21 in response to President Donald Trump’s regulatory freeze.

FMCSA complied with the directive issued on Jan. 20 with a notice that will publish in the Federal Register Feb. 1. The final rule, initially, was to go into effect on Feb. 6.

“The temporary delay in the effective date until March 21, 2017, is necessary to give Agency officials the opportunity for further review and consideration of this new regulation,” the notice states.

The agency will not seek comment on the delay. The Feb. 7, 2020, compliance deadline for the driver training rule still stands.

While the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the regulation as a necessary first step, the Association is critical of the lack of required hours behind the wheel.

The rule is a result of a negotiated rulemaking. FMCSA formed a committee of 26 industry stakeholders to develop the recommended framework for the driver training rule.

In spite of the fact that 24 of the 26 members of the committee agreed to a minimum of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training, the final rule issued by FMCSA did not include any mandatory time. Members representing the American Trucking Associations and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies opposed requiring a set number of hours behind the wheel.

Instead, the agency opted for a proficiency-based approach. The trainers will be required to check off on a list of mastered skills.

The agency blamed the inability to calculate the benefit of requiring a set number of hours behind the wheel. However, the final rule stated results of training would be studied and necessary adjustments made.

OOIDA petitioned FMCSA to reconsider the regulation and add mandatory time behind the wheel during training. As of press time, the agency has not responded to the petition request.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute has joined the call to add behind the wheel time to the rule. According to a press release from the group, it has submitted a letter to FMCSA asking the agency to reconsider the decision to exclude mandatory behind the wheel time.

PTDI, which establishes uniform skill, curriculum and certification standards for truck driving schools, has set 44 hours behind the wheel as the minimum standard.

“PTDI is concerned, particularly, that the apparent reasoning for omitting the BTW requirement was the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) determination that it would create an undue cost burden on schools. Quality training programs already require BTW time, and some states require it,” the press release stated.

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