Alexandria, Virginia – From Washington to Tennessee, truck driver training programs that recently received PTDI course certification or recertification weighed in on what the newly revised hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements mean for the industry.
“With all the CSA requirements being implemented and other industry changes, especially the continuing battle with hours of service, it is more important than ever for trucking companies to ensure the quality of their new hires,” said Don Hess, director, transportation and public safety at John Wood Community College. “If you’re hiring entry-level drivers, you’ll want to be sure you’re hiring drivers who are well prepared and trained to meet these requirements.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) recent publication of the HOS Final Rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week and requires drivers to take a break of at least 30 minutes after driving eight hours. That’s a 15-percent reduction in the average maximum allowable hours of work per week.
Although the FMCSA says these changes will affect only a minority of drivers who regularly work longer hours, those in the trucking industry may not agree. Gary Warren, truck driving instructor, Tennessee Technology Center at Nashville, said he believes “HOS will cause a driver shortage with electronic onboard recorders; carriers will have to find someone to replace those who are at their limit. If a company had to have 100 drivers before to get the job done, now it will require more.”
As far as how HOS will affect their program, Warren said students are already required to keep a log of their on-duty /off-duty time which includes classroom and driving hours. “We teach them how to keep up with how much time they spend behind the wheel. We make our students aware that everything they do has consequences.”
Since discovering PTDI when he started at Tennessee Technology in 2004, Warren said he has been “working really hard with our current [school] administration and the Tennessee Trucking Association to get all our schools here on board with the same curriculum as far as what we teach, because I’ve found we’re very different. I’d like to see all of our state truck driving schools with PTDI course certification if for no other reason than it helps hold all schools accountable.”
Gina Buda, president, Progressive Truck Driving School, has been in the industry 37 years and said PTDI standards offer the best training program she has seen. “As long as we follow PTDI curriculum and certification standards, our students will be very well prepared.”
In terms of HOS, she said, “I think we’re heading in the right direction as an industry. I’ve always believed that changes are for the better if they help us stay safe and make corrections as needed. If it improves safety and saves one more life, it’s good.”
Jeff Frank, director, Iowa Central Community College, Transportation Technology Center, believes HOS will be complex to enforce and interpret accurately. “I’ve been in the industry 31 years and the rules have gotten very complex.”
“Until students actually get into a job and encounter the rule,” he said, “it will take a while to master the hours of service. While in training, they may not exceed the 11 hours of driving and 14-hour rule, yet we average about 2,000 miles per student over the 11-week course, so we are probably one of the longest programs in the country. We exceed the behind-the-wheel time that PTDI requires.”
Frank believes that eventually the federal government will mandate the number of hours required for training to get a CDL nationwide. “I think personally if they follow PTDI standards, it would be very successful. We have excellent checks and balances in place, and our students are better prepared to enter the industry.”
Hess agrees. “The Feds are on the verge of releasing entry-level training standards, which will require anyone taking a CDL test to have gone to an approved school before they will issue a CDL. Rest assured that all PTDI course-certified schools will be approved schools.”
The truck driver training courses that received PTDI recertifcation in December are Bates Technical College, Tacoma, Washington; Iowa Central Community College, Transportation Technology Center, Fort Dodge, Iowa; John Wood Community College, Quincy, Illinois; Swift Driving Academy in San Antonio and Phoenix; and Tennessee Technology Center at Nashville. Two courses each at Progressive Truck Driving School in Lansing and Cicero, Illinois, as well as an additional course at the Chicago location, received initial certification.
PTDI is a national, nonprofit organization established for the twofold purpose of developing uniform industry skill, curriculum, and certification standards for entry-level truck driver training and motor carrier driver finishing programs, and certifying entry-level truck driver training courses at public and private schools and driver finishing programs at carriers for compliance with PTDI standards. PTDI is based in Alexandria, Virginia.