New entry-level driver training (ELDT) requirements go into effect on February 7, 2022, for new drivers seeking a commercial driver’s license (CDL). When they do, long gone are the days of a driver-trainee obtaining a learner’s permit, driving with a CDL holder for as little as a few days, and then taking the CDL skills test. Under the new ELDT requirements, driver-trainees will be subject to a specific curriculum presented by an entity listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Training Provider Registry (TPR). While the deadline may still be months away, motor carriers that provide CDL training need to prepare now.
These new entry-level driver training rule establish minimum training standards for drivers who are applying for their initial Class A or Class B, upgrading their current CDL, or obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement for the first time. An individual must complete a prescribed program of theory and behind-the-wheel instruction provided by a school or other entity listed on the TPR prior to taking a skills test for a Class A CDL or Class B CDL. A prescribed program of theory instruction provided by a school or other entity listed on the TPR must be completed prior to an individual taking a hazardous materials endorsement knowledge test.
For Class A and B CDLs, the rule prescribes instruction in five major areas, encompassing 30 specific theory topics for a Class A CDL, and 29 specific theory topics for a Class B CDL which include basic truck operation (inspections, basic control, backing/docking), safe operating practices (speed and space management, night driving, extreme driving conditions), advanced operating practices (hazard perception, skid control and recovery), vehicle systems (roadside inspections, identification and diagnosis of malfunctions), and non-driving activities (hours of service, trip planning, etc.).
Drivers seeking a hazardous materials endorsement for the first time must also complete a specific curriculum that includes theory instruction on 13 topics. The rule does not include a minimum number of hours that driver-trainees must spend on theory instruction. Vehicle inspections are one of the topics required during range instruction in the new ELDT rules. An assessment must be used to determine the driver-trainee’s proficiency for each unit of instruction. Driver trainees must demonstrate their understanding of the material by achieving an overall minimum score of 80% on the theory assessment.
Range and public road instruction are both now included in the behind-the-wheel curriculum for Class A and Class B CDL drivers. Range instruction covers seven topics, including vehicle inspections, backing, and parking. Public road instruction covers 12 topics, like vehicle controls, hazard perception, and visual search. Again, the rule does not require a minimum number of behind-the-wheel instruction hours. The driver-trainee is expected to be able to successfully repeat each required maneuver several times. A determination of proficiency will be based on the instructor’s professional judgment.
All entry-level driver training instruction must be provided by a school or entity listed on the Training Provider Registry. To be eligible for listing on the registry, specific criteria addressing curriculum, instructors, facilities, vehicles, equipment, and record-keeping must be met. Training providers will need to complete an online application that includes provider name, facility name, and contact information, along with whether driver enrollment is open to the public or by private enrollment. It also needs to include the type of training provided, average training hours, average training cost, and if there are any third-party affiliations, certifications, or accreditations.
A training provider will also need to supply information about each of its instructors on the TPR application. Instructors will not need to apply separately. Theory and behind-the-wheel instructors must hold an appropriate class of CDL, including any appropriate endorsements, and have either a minimum of two years of experience driving a commercial motor vehicle requiring the CDL (including appropriate endorsements), or a minimum of two years of experience as a behind-the-wheel commercial motor vehicle instructor. These individuals must also meet applicable state qualification requirements for commercial motor vehicle instructors.
In regard to ELDT record-keeping, after an individual completes training administered by a provider listed on the registry, that provider must, by midnight of the second business day after the driver-trainee completes the training, electronically transmit training certification information through the TPR website. This transmission of data is necessary, as it provides proof to the applicable state driver licensing agency that an individual has successfully completed ELDT and is eligible for CDL or endorsement testing.
Training providers are also required to maintain all of their training-related documentation for at least three years from the date each required record is generated or received. This documentation includes driver-trainee documentation, including self-certifications of compliance and a copy of the commercial learner’s permit, instructor qualification documentation, including a copy of the CDL, a copy of the registration submitted to the TPR, the lesson plans for theory and behind-the-wheel (range and public road) training curricula, as applicable, and records of individual entry-level driver training assessments. Note: if local, state, or federal requirements prescribe longer retention periods for any category of records described, the records should be kept under those guidelines.
The bottom line – as of February 7, 2022, obtaining a Class A or Class B CDL, as well as a hazardous materials endorsement, will become more detailed and will take more time. Carriers need to work on a game plan now to minimize delays in the process.
On another note, FMCSA has updated the SMS website with the October 29, 2021, results. Complete SMS results are available to enforcement users and motor carriers logged into the SMS website. FMCSA recently changed which carriers are sent warning letters based on Unsafe Driving BASIC results. Previously, carriers could receive warning letters for this BASIC if they met the prioritization threshold for interventions or further monitoring (50% for passenger carriers, 60% for HM carriers, and 65% for all other carriers). However, with the September 24, 2021 snapshot, all carriers may receive warning letters for this BASIC if their percentile is at 50% or above.
FMCSA is sending warning letters to more carriers based on Unsafe Driving BASIC results so they have the chance to improve their safety performance and compliance sooner, and without further intervention. The percentile thresholds for prioritization are not changing. Carriers that have BASICs with an “Alert” symbol (gold triangle with an exclamation point) may be prioritized for interventions or further monitoring. This is simply an update to when carriers are eligible to receive warning letters for the Unsafe Driving BASIC. The prioritization thresholds are still used as the basis for sending out warning letters for the other BASICs. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call us at (800) 805-0040.