In this post, we're answering all your burning questions about the FMCSA’s Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule--to whom it applies, who is exempt, and everything in between! For an in-depth breakdown of the rule itself, be sure to check out our prior article.
As of the date of this article, we’re about 5 months into the new ELDT requirement, which took effect February 7, 2022. Without a doubt, the rule is a pretty big one…impacting every individual who is now seeking a Class A or B CDL or certain endorsements, namely hazmat, school bus, or passenger. So it's not surprising the rule has spurred so much confusion. We've received dozens of questions on the topic, so let’s dig into some of your frequently asked…
Aren't those who are seeking to upgrade an existing Class B to Class A CDL exempt from ELDT?
Several folks are under the impression that an individual who is simply upgrading an existing Class B CDL to a Class A in order to operate larger combination vehicles was exempt from the new ELDT requirement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Class B to A upgrades are very explicitly included within the scope of the rule. So, if that’s you, you’ll need to complete the new training in order to be eligible to complete that upgrade.
Can the behind-the wheel-portion of ELDT be completed online?
Sorry to say, but you'll actually have to get behind the wheel in order to complete the behind the wheel training, meaning you’ll have to complete that portion of the training in person. On the other hand, the theory portion of the required training can be done entirely online.
Can I take the behind-the-wheel ELDT training from anyone?
Sort of….the ELDT rule says you have to take the training from a certified training provider, someone who is listed on the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry. So, you can take the training from whoever you like, so long as they are listed on the registry. Check it out online at tpr.fmcsa.dot.gov and do some research to find a training provider or providers that will work best for your situation. There are hundreds if not thousands of them listed, and the website let’s you sort them by location and gives you links to their websites.
Do I have to take behind-the-wheel training for a hazmat endorsement?
The ELDT rule says that if you already hold a valid CDL and you just need to add a hazmat endorsement, you only have to take a hazmat-specific theory training, which you can do entirely online. That's because in order to obtain a hazmat endorsement, you only have to pass a written test at the DMV, not a skills test. So, if you have a CDL and just need a hazmat endorsement, find an online hazmat training provider by searching at tpr.fmcsa.dot.gov, complete that training, and then you’ll be good to go.
Aren't folks who obtained their Commercial Learner's Permit prior to February 7th exempt?
Yes, individuals who obtained their CLP prior to February 7, 2022 and whose CLP hasn't lapsed after that date are exempt from ELDT.
How much does ELDT cost?
The cost of ELDT varies wildly from training provider to training provider. The ELDT rule doesn’t set any standard pricing, so training providers are able to set their own. The best advice we can give is for folks to do some due diligence, look up the training providers online and see what they’re charging. Unsuprisingly, you'll generally be paying more if you’re looking to take the full Class B or A training than if you were to just take the hazmat theory portion, for example.
Now that ELDT is mandatory, do I have to go to a full on trucking school now?
Technically, no. ELDT is not the same thing as traditional CDL schools, which have been around for decades and have provided very valuable services. The ELDT rule itself does not require CDL applicants to attend any specific CDL school, nor does it set any minimum number of hours for the required training. Certainly, existing CDL schools will, in most cases, now be registered as training providers, meaning if you take their courses, then you should be eligible to complete your CDL transaction. But that’s not to say you have to attend these traditional schools. Again, if you run a simple search on the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of registered training providers, many of which are not CDL schools. These non-traditional training providers offer a range of training services. Some stick specifically to the ELDT rule, so their courses may be significantly shorter in length than traditional CDL schools, which, generally, are providing a much more comprehensive and rounded training on how to safely operate a commercial vehicle.
Is ELDT required for Class C CDLs?
Class C CDLs, if you’re not familiar with them, usually allow for the operation of smaller vehicles that are either hauling a placardable quantity of hazmat or 16 or more passengers. In other words, vehicles that don’t require the Class A or B CDLs. The answer to the question is no. Folks who only need a Class C CDL are not subject to ELDT. On the other hand, if they also need a hazmat or passenger endorsement to go along with that, then they would be subject to the ELDT requirement for those endorsements.
If I previously held a CDL prior to Feb. 7th, am I now subject to ELDT if I want to reinstate it?
The FMCSA has specific guidance out there on this topic that says, no....drivers who previously (prior to Feb. 7) held a CDL of the same class that they’re looking to now reinstate are exempt from the ELDT requirement altogether.
In what order should I take the ELDT training?
The ELDT rule doesn’t set any specific order that these things have to be done it, but there is a logical order that makes sense to follow and here it is: Take the theory portion of the ELDT from a training provider that offers it, which will get you the basic knowledge you’ll need to then go to the DMV and pass the knowledge test that’s required to get your CLP. Then once you have the CLP, which you’ll need in order to do the BTW training, you can then go and take the BTW training. Once you successfully complete that step, now you’re eligible to go back to the DMV and take the skills test that’s required to get your actual CDL.
Are ELDT requirements the same in all states?
This is an interesting question with a slightly complex answer. Generally, the answer is yes. No matter what state you happen to be licensed in, you'll have to successfully pass ELDT in order to get your CDL or the endorsements we mentioned. That said, the FMCSA did leave open the possibility for each state to impose more stringent ELDT requirements for drivers domiciled within their borders. The perfect example is minimum hours requirements. Recall that the federal ELDT rule sets no minimum hours requirements for either the theory or BTW portions of the training; however, some states do have their own minimum hours requirements and those are enforceable. So, it’s important that in addition to understanding the general ELDT requirements that we’ve addressed, you consult with your state DMV to understand whether they have any additional requirements. Those aren’t common but they do exist.
If you have other questions, be sure to reach out. For even more in-depth information about the driver qualification process and other major aspects of the federal and state safety regulations, be sure to check out our innovative online compliance courses for safety managers and drivers over at trucksafeacademy.com. Also, be sure to follow us on our various social media pages for the latest highway transportation news and analysis.