Under current law, a person can sit for his Commercial Driver’s License test (CDL) without receiving formal driver training. For more than 20 years, the Department of Transportation has attempted to produce minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers (ELDT). Prior attempts have failed to pass judicial scrutiny or were withdrawn by the Department.
With the passage of Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1986, President Reagan established the Commercial Driver’s License Program. This program requires both knowledge and skills testing for all new entrants. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act — commonly known as ISTEA — into law, which required the Secretary of Transportation to begin a rulemaking on ELDT. In 2004, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a Final Rule on ELDT, but soon after the release of the proposed rule, the agency was sued. In 2005, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision, which remanded the rule back to FMCSA, stating that training must include on-the-road training.
In 2007, FMCSA published a proposed rule that would require entry-level driver training for all new drivers seeking to acquire a CDL. That proposed rule would have mandated all training programs be 120 hours and be accredited. While CVTA supported mandatory training for entry-level drivers, we did not support it in the form that FMCSA had proposed because there was and is no data to suggest that a specific number of hours or accreditation correlated to safety. CVTA and others supported an alternative version of ELDT known as performance-based testing, which requires an individual to actually demonstrate their knowledge and skills prior to sitting for the CDL skills exam.
In 2012, the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” — known as MAP-21 — again called for FMCSA to put forth minimum driver training requirements. Since then, FMCSA has withdrawn its 2007 proposed rule and is now undertaking the negotiated rulemaking process.
The FMCSA recently announced the formation of the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), which will attempt identify and draft an ELDT regulation through the negotiated rulemaking process. In this negotiated rulemaking, FMCSA has selected 26 individuals representing various industries that are connected to trucking, including CVTA, to “negotiate” a proposed regulation. The other ELDTAC participants are comprised of schools, trucking associations, bus associations, safety groups, enforcement groups, unions, and a large carrier and an owner-operator.
CVTA strongly believes that any driver sitting for his CDL should (a) first be required to attend mandatory training that includes both classroom and behind-the-wheel training; (b) should be required to present certification showing successful completion of the required training prior to sitting for the CDL; (c) that training should be performance-based rather than hours-based (i.e. that a new driver should become competent in the required knowledge and skills prior to sitting for his CDL, rather than merely completing a set number of hours of training); and (d) that all training programs should be licensed by the state in which they operate.
While CVTA works with other stakeholders on the ELDTAC to produce minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers, we want all Members of Congress and staff to be aware of the ongoing process at the Department of Transportation and to know that CVTA is a participant in the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. While CVTA is optimistic that parties can come together and put forth a sensible regulation, we may need support introducing legislation if FMCSA puts forth a misguided rule.