Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would grant sweeping exemptions that would allow employees in several large industries to bypass minimum safety requirements for the training of entry-level drivers of commercial motor vehicles. Fatal crashes involving large trucks increased by 33 percent between 2011 and 2020, highlighting the need for continued vigilance regarding safety on our nation’s roads. CVTA strongly opposes this proposal that would severely weaken training requirements that enhance highway safety and took decades to put into place.
After more than 30 years of work, minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers of commercial vehicles went into effect in February 2022 through federal rules known as the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) final rule. Under ELDT, anyone seeking a Class A or Class B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) or license endorsements to drive school buses, large passenger vehicles, or transport hazardous materials must comply with minimum training standards.
These standards are not onerous to comply with. They require training instructors to teach to and students to demonstrate proficiency in a curriculum without instruction hours requirements. ELDT standards were developed as the result of a consensus recommendation made by an advisory committee of 26 stakeholder organizations, including CVTA as well as truck driver organizations, motor carriers, and law enforcement. The decades of training experience held by CVTA members, most of which are small businesses that operate truck driver training programs, are reflected in these safety standards.
S. 4861, recently introduced in the U.S. Senate, creates overly broad exemptions from these critical safety requirements. Employees of certain agricultural businesses as well as state, local, and tribal government employees would not be required to meet these minimum training standards. And employees at businesses that employ 9 or fewer people with CDLs could also bypass these minimum requirements and be granted a “restricted” CDL.
Reasonable exemptions from ELDT already exist. Farmers, military drivers, firefighters, and other emergency response personnel can be exempted from ELDT under current rules.
The reckless exemptions proposed in this legislation provide broad authority to the executive branch to expand who is considered to be a “farm-related service industry” employee and allow them to bypass safety requirements without a guarantee that an exemption would provide for an equal or greater level of safety. Creating an arbitrary threshold that would exempt small business employees from safety requirements would invite irresponsible businesses to game the system. The cumulative impact of these exemptions would effectively gut the minimum training rules that provide for greater safety on our roads.
Congress should reject this legislation, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) should continue to pursue uniform application of ELDT.