In December 2016, the FMCSA established new national training standards for prospective commercial truck and bus drivers.
The Final Rule created new national minimum training standards for entry-level bus and truck drivers who want to obtain a CDL as well as any driving endorsements.
Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made this statement at the announcement of the new standards:
“Ensuring that drivers are properly trained is a critical element in improving road safety for everyone. 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 new rules have an effective date of March 22, 2107, with a compliance date of February 7, 2020, giving States the time to recertify CDL training programs to adhere to the new standards.
The minimum training standards apply to any, “entry-level operators of CMVs in interstate and intrastate commerce who are applying for a Class A or Class B CDL, an upgrade of their CDL, or a hazardous materials, passenger or school bus endorsement for their license for the first time.”
Because of the new standards, commercial truck drivers must now complete a theory (knowledge) and behind the wheel (BTW) training program.
The ‘theory’ portion emphasizes a broad knowledge curriculum of concepts and issues related to commercial driving.
Though the FMCSA does not stipulate a minimum number of behind-the-wheel hours for the new standards, it does state that completion of the training program is “based solely on the training instructor’s assessment of each driver-trainee’s individual performance of the required elements of BTW on the range and public road.”
By emphasizing the importance of theory (knowledge), the FMCSA is challenging CDL training programs as well as truck carriers to provide their drivers with a balance of actual driving hours and valuable knowledge about the risks they face on the road.
It remains to be seen whether these new truck driver standards will lower truck accident rates, but an improvement in the overall education of truck operators seems likely.