After numerous delays, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now plans to proceed with its final rule dictating minimum training rules for new truck drivers.
The agency was set to put the mandate into place but delayed implementation following the Trump Administration’s order in January that froze all pending regulations until further review.
The new training rule still won’t start for years. The compliance date is Feb. 7, 2020.
The American Trucking Associations praised the agency’s publication of the final rule, calling it a “victory for safety and commonsense.”
“This rule will improve highway safety by ensuring that new drivers can properly demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills necessary to safely operate a commercial vehicle, rather than by adhering to arbitrary amounts of classroom or behind-the-wheel instruction,” Bill Sullivan, executive vice president for advocacy for ATA, told Trucks.com.
FMCSA developed the rule to establish minimum training requirements for first-time applicants for commercial driver’s licenses, or CDLs; drivers seeking to upgrade their CDL to another classification; and truck drivers seeking an endorsement for hazardous materials, passenger or school bus operations for their license for the first time.
The rule combines some behind-the-wheel training with a classroom curriculum. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and safety industry group, however, say the FMCSA rule is not strong enough. They wanted to see a minimum of 30 hours behind the wheel for new drivers. Such a proposal was included in FMCSA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, but was eliminated from the agency’s final rule issued on Dec. 6, 2016.
“We have supported minimum training standards for decades, including behind-the-wheel training,” Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for OOIDA, told Trucks.com. “We think new drivers need as much real-world experience as possible to be prepared to drive a truck – it’s in their best interest and the motoring public’s best interest.”
The FMCSA said it didn’t include minimum behind-the-wheel training hours in its final rule because such a requirement didn’t make fiscal sense and its safety benefits were hard to quantify. The federal agency is required to consider a cost-benefit analysis when it issues a new rule.
“The lack of data directly linking training to improvements in safety outcomes, such as reduced crash frequency or severity, posed a challenge to the Agency, FMCSA said in its final rule.
The agency said adding 30 hours of driver training would only reduce the frequency of crashes involving new drivers by about 3.6 percent.
The rule was mandated by Congress under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century – or MAP-21 – highway bill, which was passed in 2012.