New Federal Rule Updates Guidance on Entry-Level Truck Driver Training

United States drivers hoping to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) (Class A or Class B) will have a new set of new driver training requirements to complete beginning February 7, 2022.

With any new rule, understanding new guidance and how it impacts you as a driver can be challenging –especially if your goal is simply to get on the road and get driving.

For any commercial driver or fleet owner, however, a safe driver is synonymous with superior service, safer roads, and reduced exposure to operational risk. As a result, understanding and educating new drivers on the new ELDT rule is essential, so, let’s break it down:

Entry-Level Driver Training requirements can be found at 49 CFR Part 380 Subpart F.

Why are the new ELDT Requirements important?

Prior to these new requirements, anyone could simply walk off the street, enter a state’s driver licensing agency and obtain a CDL, provided they could pass the written knowledge and various skills tests given at the state level.

The new entry-level driver training requirements will standardize the training, assessment, and demonstrated ability needed for drivers to obtain their CDL.

By implementing a uniform, structured training curriculum, overseen at the Federal level, it is anticipated that the new Entry-Level Driver Training Requirements will result in safer driving.

Who does the new rule apply to?

In addition to those seeking their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for the first time, this new rule will affect those looking to upgrade their CDL from a Class B to a Class A license, and drivers pursuing a new endorsement – whether it’s for a school bus, passenger, or hazardous materials.

How do I become certified and get my CDL?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will keep a record of which CDL applicants have completed the new entry-level driver training curriculum. While the new rule provides strict guidelines on the training subject matter, it allows for flexibility on how a driver can complete their training.

New CDL Driver-Trainees must do the following:

  1. Go to the Training Provider Registry (TPR) website to find a registered training provider.
  2. Contact a training provider of your choice from over 8,000 locations.
  3. Complete the required training. Training includes written theory training and behind-the-wheel training.
  4. Use the registry to review your training certification record and verify that the training provider you selected has certified completion of your entry-level driver training.

What does the new ELDT curriculum look like?

New driver trainees will be required to complete both theory training (classroom/written training) and behind-the-wheel training (driving a commercial motor vehicle).

Theory Training Curriculum

Class A CDL applicants must undergo theory training on the following commercial vehicle driving topics:

  • Safe operating procedures of a CMV (commercial motor vehicle)
  • Communicating intentions to other road users
  • Up and downshifting techniques
  • How to safely manage space around a CMV
  • How to safely manage the speed of a CMV
  • Extreme driving conditions
  • Mirror usage
  • Turning
  • Backing and docking techniques
  • Coupling and uncoupling combination vehicles
  • Stopping at weigh stations/scales
  • Entering and exiting the interstate or controlled-access highway
  • Properly Performing Vehicle Inspections
  • Pre-trip inspections
  • During-trip (en route) inspections
  • Post-trip inspections
  • Roadside inspections and what to expect when a roadside inspection is conducted by authorized personnel
  • Violations classified as out-of-service (OOS)
  • Basic maintenance
  • Proper cargo securement
  • Distracted Driving
  • Visual attention (keeping eyes on the road)
  • Manual control (keeping hands on the wheel)
  • Cognitive awareness (keeping the mind on the task at hand and safe operation of the CMV)
  • Skid Control / Recovery, Jackknifing, and Other Emergencies
  • Maintaining directional control
  • Bringing CMV to a stop in the shortest distance possible
  • Evasive steering
  • Emergency braking
  • Off-road recovery
  • Response to brake failures
  • Tire blowouts
  • Hydroplaning
  • Rollovers
  • Non-driving Skills
  • Handling and documenting cargo
  • Trip planning
  • Hours of Service (HOS) requirements
  • Fatigue and Wellness awareness
  • Whistleblower/coercion and reporting to FMCSA incidents of coercion from motor carriers, shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries such as brokers and freight forwarders
  • Medical requirements

The driver-trainee must receive an overall score of 80% or better during the driving theory assessment to move on to behind-the-wheel training.

Behind the Wheel (BTW) Training Curriculum

Driver-trainees will also be required to complete behind-the-wheel training. They must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the following areas:

  • Basic maneuvers necessary to operate the CMV safely, as covered in 49 CFR §§383.111 and §383.113
  • Vehicle Inspection (pre-trip / during-trip / post-trip)
  • Backing
  • Coupling and uncoupling
  • Initiating vehicle movement
  • Shifting
  • Communications / Signaling
  • Left and right turns
  • Lane changes
  • Curves at highway speeds
  • Entry and exit on the interstate or controlled-access highway
  • Visual searching
  • Speed and apace management
  • Safe driver behavior
  • Hours-of-Service (HOS) requirements
  • Hazard perception and recognition
  • Night operation
  • Extreme driving conditions
  • Skid control/recovery, jackknifing, and other emergencies

Can BTW training be completed with a simulator?

A computer simulator cannot be used to complete behind-the-wheel training requirements. Training must occur on a closed-course range or open road. The trainees must be able to demonstrate proficiency through repetitive completion of the required behind-the-wheel knowledge and skills listed in the new curriculum.

What happens next?

After a driving-trainee has completed the entry-level driver training curriculum, training providers will submit to the FMCSA Registry each driver’s written theory assessment score and the total number of hours spent in behind-the-wheel training and behind-the-wheel public road training.

There is no minimum number of clock hours required for any of the training required under the new rule. The training curricula for each type of CDL or endorsement can be found in 49 CFR part 380 appendices A through E.

Safer drivers mean safer roadways

In 2019, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased from 4,909 to 5,005 and the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by 6 percent, from 112,000 to 119,000; inconsistent CMV training truck driver to truck driver undoubtedly plays a role in these statistics.

While the new entry-level driver training rule is not without its flaws, standardizing the training requirements for CMV drivers is a huge step forward in the fight for safer roadways, safer drivers, and a future where catastrophic truck crashes have been eliminated from our roadways.

Author: Truck Crash Attorney / Class A CDL Truck Driver – Andy Young

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