FMCSA FINALLY ISSUES FINAL RULE ON DRIVER TRAINING STANDARDS
A very long-awaited final rule on national minimum training standards for entry-level applicants seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license or certain endorsements was finally announced on December 7, 2016 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Covering 271 pages, the agency had been working on this rulemaking since 2007, but efforts to advance such a rule date back to the 1980s. The effective date of the new rule is February 6, 2017 and the compliance date is listed as February of 2020.
The final rule does not include a requirement for 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training for new drivers, which had been included in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that FMCSA issued in March of this year. That NPRM also called for a minimum of 10 hours of training on a “driving range” as well as an unspecified amount of time driving on public roads. FMCSA noted that the final rule retains “many” of the recommendations of a negotiated rulemaking committee which was comprised of some 25 industry stakeholders and agency representatives.
Per the final rule, applicants seeking a CDL will have to demonstrate proficiency in behind-the-wheel training on a course and on a public road, as well as knowledge training. But, there are no required minimum numbers of hours for either the knowledge or behind-the-wheel portions of any of the individual training curriculum. However, training providers must determine that each new CDL applicant demonstrates proficiency in all of the required elements of the training to successfully complete the program. In addition, the driver training must be obtained from an instructional program that meets qualification standards set forth in the final rule. FMCSA said it expects 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.”
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: 1) First-time CDL applicants, including for Class-A and Class-B CDLs; and 2) Current CDL holders seeking a license upgrade (for example, a Class-B holder seeking a Class-A license) or any additional endorsement to transport hazardous materials, operate a motor coach, drive a school bus, etc.
Also welcoming the rule’s release and its specifics was the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA), which represents nearly 200 training providers in 41 states, that helped FMCSA formulate the rule’s minimum training requirements. “FMCSA has put forth a common-sense rule, that recognizes the value and importance of effectively training commercial drivers based on their actual performance,” said Don Lefeve, CVTA president and CEO. “This rule ensures that students can only sit for their CDL exam after demonstrating driving and knowledge proficiency. This is a major step in advancing highway safety by requiring driver training and ends nearly 25 years of effort to get this rule in place.”
As described by CVTA, here’s what the rule requires of the providers of entry level driver training: 1) They must register with FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry (TPR) and certify that their program meets the standards for classroom and behind-the-wheel (BTW) training; 2) They must certify that students have completed BTW training to a proficiency standard; 3) They must certify their program teaches the required classroom subjects (outlined in the final rule), and that students have completed a written assessment, covering all subjects, with a passing score of 80% or higher; and 4) They must certify that students have demonstrated proficiency in operating a vehicle before sitting for the CDL exam.
FMCSA RELEASES DRUG AND ALCOHOL CLEARINGHOUSE FINAL RULE
On December 5, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued its final rule creating the much-anticipated federal clearinghouse for drug and alcohol test results of truck drivers. It has been four years since Congress called for a national clearinghouse for truck drivers who have drug and alcohol violations. The purpose of the clearinghouse is to prevent CDL holders with positive drug and alcohol test results, refused required drug and alcohol tests, or who have undergone the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process, from job-hopping (moving to different states where the results do not follow them) – making it harder to hire these drivers and keeping the roads safer.
According to FMCSA, the drug and alcohol clearinghouse final rule annual net benefits are an estimated $42 million, with crash reductions resulting from annual and pre-employment queries by FMCSA-regulated motor carriers. This new rule is set to go into effect 30 days after publication, on January 4, 2017, before an expected regulatory moratorium by the Trump administration, taking office on January 20, 2017. The rule’s compliance date is set at January 6, 2020.
FMCSA believes that three years is necessary to provide the agency time to design and implement the information technology (IT) systems needed to facilitate the reporting of results and violations of the drug and alcohol testing rules and the responses to queries from employers and prospective employers. Also, this extended period of time will ensure that stakeholders have sufficient time to prepare for this new rule. All Mexican and Canadian employees, employers or service agents that are currently required to comply with DOT and FMCSA drug and alcohol testing requirements must also comply with this new rule. Stay tuned!