In July of 2012, Congress mandated certain rules in the trucking industry under the “Move Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” Act, also known as MAP-21. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was to establish minimum training standards for entry-level driver training.
In 2014, the FMCSA announced its intention to establish regulations for entry-level drivers training for drivers operating commercial motor vehicles both interstate and intrastate. On Dec. 7, 2016, the FMCSA announced a final rule establishing a comprehensive national minimum training standard for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). These standards address the knowledge and skill necessary for safe operation of a commercial motor vehicle and provide entry-level driver training. However, the initial proposed rule issued in 2014 set forth 30 hours of training with a minimum of 10 hours of behind-the-wheel. The final rule issued on Dec. 7, 2016, did not mandate the 10 hours of behind-the-wheel training.
On Jan. 3, 2017, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the owner/operator independent driver’s association, Truck Safety Coalition, and Citizen’s for Reliable and Safe Highways filed a petition for reconsideration asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to strengthen the rule to ensure that candidates applying for a commercial driver’s license log a minimum number of behind-the-wheel hours actually operating a commercial truck on the public roads. Advocates argue that without a minimum hour requirement for behind-the-wheel training, sufficient to provide exposure to actual operation of equipment, the final rule as published includes no measurable means or minimum metric to ensure commercial driver’s license applicants will obtain some minimum training and experience both on the road and range.
Since the minimum final rule is not anchored in any measureable or quantifiable performance metric, the final rule provides no means for insuring any instructors will not take the easy, “one and done” alternative and render the final rule ineffective.
Requiring candidates to drive a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel training will help reduce crashes involving inexperienced truck drivers. Furthermore, the leading commercial driver’s license training schools already require their students to complete a minimum number of hours behind-the-wheel training. The new federal standard falls short of even that.
The current rule provides that training providers must determine that each CDL applicant demonstrates proficiency in all required elements of the training in order to successfully complete a program. The current rule that was issued on Dec. 7, 2016, would go into effect on Feb. 6, 2017, with full compliance by February of 2020.
It is hard to believe that a new truck driver does not receive any hours-behind-the-wheel training. Persons obtaining a private pilot’s license have a minimum of 10 hours of solo flying; persons wanting to become a train engineer have 16 weeks of on-the-job training where they actually would control the train; and persons wishing to obtain a boat captain’s license have to be on a boat in the water for at least 90 days of the prior 360 days prior to issuance of a license.
The final rule that was issued is not in the public interest because it does not advance safety beyond the current practice in which any and all untrained CDL applicants can perform basic minor movements of commercial motor vehicles and obtain a commercial driver’s license without being exposed to the real world experience of driving a commercial motor vehicle on public roads while receiving instruction from a qualified instructor.
Hopefully the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will reconsider the final rule that was issued and put in a minimum number of hours that new applicants are required to spend behind the wheel of a truck or bus. If you need more information on this subject, contact Mike Crow, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Crow@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: www.fmcsa.dot.gove, www.fleetowner.com and Law360.com
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