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Trucksafe's President Brandon Wiseman and Vice President Jerad Childress are transportation attorneys who have represented and advised hundreds of motor carriers (both large and small) on DOT regulatory compliance. Brandon and Jerad are regular speakers at industry events and routinely contribute to industry publications. They are devoted to helping carriers develop state-of-the-art safety programs, through personalized consulting services and relevant training resources. 

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Get ready for the new DOT entry-level driver training

The FMCSA's new entry-level driver training rule, which was originally published way back in 2016, is set to take effect on February 7, 2022. With that date looming, I thought it would be the perfect time to address the new rule, who exactly it impacts and what it entails. Now before I get to that, I should start by discussing what the agency's rules currently require in terms of entry-level driver training.



Existing Entry-Level Driver Training Requirement

Believe it or not, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are pretty bare-bones when it comes to mandatory training requirements for commercial drivers. While the regulations certainly require motor carriers to ensure that their drivers can, by reason of experience, training, or both, be capable of safely operating a commercial motor vehicle, they say very little about training itself. That is, except in certain limited circumstance. One of those circumstances is entry-level driver training, which is currently mandatory for CDL drivers who have less than 1 years' worth of commercial driving experience when they first onboard with a motor carrier. For those drivers, the regulations impose an affirmative obligation on motor carriers to provide those drivers training in four areas: (1) driver qualification; (2) hours-of-service; (3) driver wellness; and (4) whistleblower protections. Once they complete the mandatory new-entrant training, the drivers must receive a certificate and a copy of that certificate must be kept in their driver files. So, in sum, the rules currently place the onus on motor carriers to provide new-entrant training to CDL drivers who onboard with them and have less than 1 years' worth of commercial driving experience.


New Entry-Level Driver Training Requirement

With the existing entry-level driver training requirement scheduled to sunset on February 7, 2022, the new entry-level training requirement will completely overhaul the existing system. Importantly, the new rule will take the onus of providing the training off of motor carriers that employ certain CDL drivers and place it on the shoulders of the CDL drivers themselves. More specifically, the new entry-level driver training requirement will apply to the following three categories of CDL drivers:

  • Drivers obtaining a Class A or B CDL for the first time;

  • Class B holders seeking to upgrade to a Class A CDL; and

  • CDL holders seeking a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazmat (H) endorsement for the first time.

Drivers who fall into these categories will, effective February 7th, be required to obtain entry-level driver training from a certified training provider in order to be eligible to take the skills tests that are necessary to complete their respective CDL transactions. For example, a driver seeking to upgrade her Class B CDL to a Class A on or after February 7, 2022 will have to obtain and pass the new entry-level driver training requirement in order to take the skills test to complete the upgrade process. Now, the rule is not retroactive, meaning that it will not apply to any drivers who complete their respective CDL transactions prior to February 7, 2022, but it will apply to any drivers who fall into one of these three categories after that date.


What Does the New Entry-Level Training Entail?

The new entry-level training will be broken into two subdivisions: a theory and a behind-the-wheel (BTW) component. Drivers will have to pass both sections in order to be eligible to take their respective skills test. The training itself will be developed by certified training providers but must meet certain standards and cover certain topics that are detailed in the FMCSA's rule. And although the rule doesn't set any minimum hours requirement for either the theory or the BTW components, drivers will have to pass the theory component with a score of at least 80% and will have to pass the BTW component--which will include both range and public roadway driving--to the satisfaction of the training provider.


Training Provider Registry

Entities, whether they are dedicated driving schools, motor carriers, or state agencies, that wish to provide the required entry-level driver training must be listed on the FMCSA's Training Provider Registry. In order to be listed, the providers will have to self-certify that they meet certain conditions, including having curriculum that meets the FMCSA's minimum standards for entry-level training. Drivers seeking to obtain the required training will have to ensure that their training provider is listed on the Training Provider Registry. And once a driver passes the required training, the certified training provider will be required to issue that driver a certificate and upload an electronic copy to the appropriate state licensing agency, so that the agency knows that the driver is now eligible to take the required skills test to complete their CDL transaction.


Conclusion

In sum, the upcoming entry-level driver training requirement will place the responsibility of obtaining the required training on certain CDL drivers who are required to pass a skills test in order to complete their CDL transactions. These drivers must obtain the required training from a certified training provider in order to be eligible to take the necessary skills test. This requirement will remove the onus from motor carriers who are currently required to provide entry-level driver training to CDL drivers who have less than 1 years' worth of commercial driving experience when first onboarding.


If you have questions about the new entry-level driver training requirement and how it will impact your operations, please feel free to contact us. For more in-depth training on the FMCSA's safety regulations and the requirements that apply to motor carriers and their drivers, make sure you check out our comprehensive regulatory courses at Trucksafe Academy. And if you need any DOT resources such as driver qualification forms, hours-of-service records, vehicle maintenance files, etc., please check out our extensive resource library.

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