For over thirty years, Congress and the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) have attempted to pass regulations requiring those seeking a Commercial Driver’s License (CDLs) to obtain formal training before taking the mandatory skills test. After considerable debate, Congress mandated the DOT to draft a universal regulation creating an entry-level driver’s training program through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2002. The DOT delegated implementation of this act to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
After several failed attempts at implementation, for the first time FMCSA initiated a regulatory rule making advisory committee in 2015, which was made up of 26 stakeholders from various industries. FMCSA invited CVTA members to serve on this advisory committee which aided in creating the blueprint for the Entry-Level Driver Training rule (ELDT). This step showed the seriousness in the need for implementation and the rule would likely not be in place if not for this task force. As of February 7, 2022, the ELDT has been universally implemented, but not consistently applied.
Under the ELDT, states must require all CDL students undergo a three-part curriculum program comprised of theory lessons and behind-the-wheel training on both range and road. ELDT does not require minimum training hours, and instead established a performance-based standard. In very specific cases, circumstances in which requiring minimum training hours is inefficient, especially amidst the background of the current truck-driver shortage. With this performance-based standard in place students must demonstrate, and training providers must certify, “proficiency” in all thirty subjects and skills before taking the CDL exam. Many CDL licensing facilities that have popped up after the ELDT implementation show no indication that they are meeting this standard.
FMCSA has not published an official definition of “proficiency” concerning behind-the-wheel training or provided appropriate guidance on this element of ELDT compliance. As a result, many training facilities have been grappling with this ambiguity, others have taken advantage of it. For the purposes of ELDT compliance, industry experts at CVTA have defined “proficiency” as the (1) ability to perform (2) any specific task (3) on demand (4) multiple times.
This definition was set forth by CVTA members after careful debate of what should be required by students to ensure they have mastered the skills necessary drive safely on the road. Under this definition, for a novice driver, covering thirty subjects of theory and behind-the-wheel training is the first step of many step in showing “proficiency” needed to prove competency on the road. So while a performance-based standard is not determined by hours, it does require specific tasks be performed multiple times to prove “proficiency” in order to be ELDT compliant.