Entry-Level Driver Training Rule Becomes Law

A ruling that provides the minimum requirements that must be met for entry-level driving training became law this week.  Here’s what you need to know:

Background:  An established set of requirements for entry-level driver training has been a long time in the works, going back to the 1980s.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began working on a ruling in 2007 and was mandated to do so by the MAP-21 highway bill in 2012.1

Who does it apply to:  The final ruling would apply to those receiving their CDLs from Feb. 7, 2020 and on.2

What does it state:  Up until now, “while new drivers had to pass a CDL test, testing covered only basic operations and did not address the many on-the-road demands faced by truckers or the hundreds of regulations they are responsible for following.”3 Under the new law, drivers must be versed in “hours-of-service compliance and hours logging, wellness on the road, whistleblower protections, handling cargo documents, and basic vehicle maintenance,” however, there are no set requirements for how long a driver must spend in instruction.4Besides its establishment of a core curriculum, the ruling also requires trainers (including carriers with training facilities) to “meet certain criteria and be certified by FMCSA to join the registry’s rolls.”2

Changes to the original proposed rule:  In March 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require drivers to put in a minimum number of hours behind the wheel before they could take their CDL test.  According to the proposal, Class A CDL drivers “would be required to obtain a minimum of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training from an instructional program that meets FMCSA standards, including a minimum of 10 hours of operating the vehicle on a practice driving range,” while Class B CDL drivers “would be required to obtain a minimum of 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training, including a minimum of seven hours of practice range training.”5   In December 2016, the agency removed the proposed 30 hour minimum of behind-the-wheel training and omitted a minimum number of hours that must be met in a classroom setting before obtaining a CDL.

When does it take affect:  The rule is effective as of June 5, 2017 but has a compliance date of February 2020.