National minimum training standards for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a Final Rule establishing comprehensive national minimum training standards for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license or certain endorsements.

The standards established in this rule address the knowledge and skills necessary for the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and also establish minimum qualifications for entities and individuals who provide entry-level driver training.

“Ensuring that drivers are properly trained is a critical element in improving road safety for everyone,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The entry-level training standards for large truck and bus operators put forth today exemplify a commitment to safety from a broad coalition of commercial motor vehicle stakeholders.”

The comprehensive CDL training requirements, which emphasize safety and promote driving efficiency, will result in lives saved, reductions in fuel consumption and emissions, vehicle maintenance cost reductions, and industry-wide performance improvements. The rulemaking was mandated by Congress in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

“This new rule represents the culmination of a sustained and coordinated effort to identify appropriate pre-licensing CDL standards that will enhance safety on our Nation’s roads,” said FMCSA Administrator T.F. Scott Darling, III. “Without the collective efforts of our stakeholders working closely with us, we could not have completed this important lifesaving rule. We especially appreciate the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee for its tireless efforts and expertise to enhance roadway safety through the negotiated rulemaking process.”

Under the Final Rule announced Wednesday, applicants seeking a CDL would be required to demonstrate proficiency in knowledge training and behind-the-wheel training on a driving range and on a public road, with training obtained from an instructional program that meets FMCSA standards.

There is no required minimum number of hours for the knowledge or behind-the-wheel portions of any of the individual training curricula, but training providers must determine that each CDL applicant demonstrates proficiency in all required elements of the training in order to successfully complete the program.

Mandatory, comprehensive training in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories would apply to the following individuals under the Final Rule:

First-time CDL applicants, including:

“Class A” CDLs

“Class B” CDLs

Current CDL holders seeking a license upgrade (e.g., a Class B CDL holder seeking a Class A CDL) or an additional endorsement necessary to transport hazardous materials, or to operate a motorcoach or school bus.

All of these individuals are subject to the entry-level driver training requirements and must complete a course of instruction provided by an entity that meets the qualification standards set forth in the Final Rule. FMCSA anticipates that many entities currently providing entry-level driver training, including motor carriers, school districts, independent training schools, and individuals will be eligible to provide training that complies with the new requirements.

Drivers who are not subject to or are excepted or exempted from federal CDL requirements are not subject to this Final Rule. For example, military drivers, farmers, and firefighters who are excepted from federal CDL requirements are not subject to this Final Rule.

The entry-level driver training Final Rule goes into effect on February 6, 2017, with a compliance date of February 2020.