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FMCSA Establishes New Rules for Obtaining Entry-Level CDL

January 2017

The new federal standards for commercial, entry-level driver training (ELDT) have been published in the Federal Register. FMCSA says the notice of proposed rulemaking would enhance highway safety by establishing "a more extensive ELDT protocol" and by increasing the number of drivers who receive the training.


By Ranger Kidwell-Ross from information provided by Fleet Owner

FMCSA proposes new training standards for individuals applying for an initial CDL, an upgrade of their CDL1 (e.g., a Class B CDL holder seeking a Class A CDL), or a hazardous materials, passenger, or school bus endorsement for their license. (Military drivers, farmers, and firefighters are generally excepted from the CDL requirements in part 383, and they are excepted from this proposed rule, according to FMCSA.)

Driver Training The components of the training are generally subdivided into classroom theory and behind-the-wheel (BTW) segments to be completed on a training/driving range and on public roadways. FMCSA says the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) would enhance highway safety by establishing "a more extensive ELDT protocol" and by increasing the number of drivers who receive the training.

There is no proposed minimum number of hours that driver-trainees must spend on the theory portions of any of the individual curricula. The NPRM does propose that Class A CDL driver-trainees must receive a minimum of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training, with a minimum of 10 hours on a driving range. Driving on a public road would also be required, and Class A CDL driver-trainees may fulfill this requirement by either driving 10 hours on a public road, or by driving 10 public road trips (each no less than 50 minutes in duration).

And "irrespective of the number of hours of BTW training," the training provider must not issue the training certificate unless the student "demonstrates proficiency" in operating a commercial vehicle. In this regard, training providers are being given wide latitude when it comes to assessing the performance of individual driver trainees.

This flexibility, within the total number of hours required for BTW training, allows individual trainers to allot more or less time to specific elements of the training according to the instructor's evaluation of the trainee's demonstrated performance of required skills," the notice states.

New Rule Includes 'Whistle-Blower Component'

The proposed training curricula also includes a unit addressing "the right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer" without incurring the risk of losing a job "simply for stating a safety concern." Driver-trainees will also be instructed in procedures for reporting to FMCSA incidents of coercion from carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries, FMCSA points out.

Additionally, the NPRM proposes that a CDL holder who has been disqualified from operating a CMV must successfully complete refresher training.

Training providers must, at a minimum, offer and teach a training curriculum that meets all FMCSA standards for entry-level drivers and must also meet requirements related to: course administration, qualifications for instructional personnel, assessments, issuance of training certificates, and training vehicles (i.e., equipment). Training providers that meet these requirements would be eligible for listing on FMCSA's Training Provider Registry (TPR).

3 Years Until Implementation

The proposed compliance date for this rule is three years after the effective date of the final rule, which occurred March 7, 2016. This phase-in period would also allow time for the driver training industry to develop and begin offering training programs that meet the eligibility requirements for listing on the TPR, the NPRM states.

For complete information and links to the proposed ELLDT Rule, go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. For a driving industry-based analysis, check out this web page developed by Fleet Owner; also, thanks to Fleet Owner for contributing information to our analysis of this new rule.

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