After false starts, negotiations, and years of delays, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s entry-level driver training requirements went into effect on February 7th, 2022.
This means that any driver looking to obtain their CDL, upgrade an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL, or obtain a school bus, passenger, or hazmat endorsement will be subject to the new training requirements. Drivers who already have their CDL or hold a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) issued before the program went into effect will be exempt from having to pass an ELDT approved program.
The overall goal of this program is to standardize CDL training nationwide and create a baseline of proficiency across all new drivers in the industry. Ultimately, this should lead to fewer accidents and fatalities as well as improve fleet safety records.
What will the curriculum look like?
Entry-level drivers will be required to demonstrate proficiency in basic theory as well as behind-the-wheel training. The theory training will consist of lectures, demonstrations, and computer-based training. Topics covered will include basic operating/safety procedures, vehicle systems, and reporting malfunctions. There will be no minimum requirement of hours but applicants will have to score a minimum of 80% on a written assessment to pass the course. During behind-the-wheel training, drivers will demonstrate their basic vehicle control, maneuvering, and night driving skills either on a closed course or on the road. Again, there is no minimum hour requirement. The training provider will have the ability to determine if and when a driver has met basic proficiency standards.
How will things change for training providers?
Going forward, CDL schools and other training facilities will be required to register with the National Training Provider Registry which will serve as a searchable database for drivers looking to acquire their CDL or an endorsement. This means that if a carrier currently offers in-house training for their drivers, they may continue to do so once they register and confirm that their training course meets federal criteria. According to the FMCSA, an estimated 85% of entry-level drivers are already receiving training that meets or exceeds the ELDT standards. This means that most schools and CDL training centers will not need to upgrade their existing programs.
What about the drivers?
With the transportation industry still experiencing low retention rates and an overall shortage of new drivers entering the workforce, it is easy to see why some concerns would be raised about introducing any new barriers or requirements. However, the hope is that the Training Provider Registry will actually make training facilities more accessible to drivers looking to obtain a CDL, upgrade to a Class A or obtain an endorsement. It will allow them to search by location for the specific type of training they need. At the time of this writing, there are nearly 3,000 training providers registered in the program with more expected to be added in the future.
Simply put: Don’t panic.
With a national standard for driver training in place, employers can look forward to an increase in consistency when it comes to new driver’s qualifications. Drivers can look forward to safer working conditions and fewer accidents, which will hopefully also improve retention rates within the industry. Overall, this mandate is a step towards making the roads a safer place for all of us and ultimately saving lives.