FMCSA Says CDL Final Rule to Cut Cost of Entry-Level Training

A bus driver takes the wheel during the inaugural STN EXPO Ride & Drive in July 2016.
A bus driver takes the wheel during the inaugural STN EXPO Ride & Drive in July 2016. (Photo by Sean Gallagher.)

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a final regulatory rule on March 5 that is expected to save time and costs, as well as streamline the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) process.


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The final rule was published in the Federal Register on March 6 (Doc. 2019-04044).

FMCSA officials said the new rule should help cut the cost of upgrading from a Class B CDL to a Class A CDL, by an average of $92 per driver. By adopting a new Class A CDL theory instruction upgrade curriculum, the final rule “will save eligible driver trainees and motor carriers $18 million annually.”

One acknowledgment of the need for some kind of help from the federal government for remedying the chronic driver shortage was embodied in comments released by the head of the federal agency. “Today’s action demonstrates the Department’s commitment to reducing regulatory burdens and addressing our nation’s shortage of commercial drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

FMCSA is amending the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations that were published on Dec. 8, 2016. The ELDT “requires the same level of theory training for individuals obtaining a CDL for the first time as for those who already hold a Class B CDL and are upgrading to a Class A CDL.”

In recognition that Class B CDL holders have previous training or experience, the FMCSA decided that those persons should not be required to “receive the same level of theory training as individuals who have never held a CDL. FMCSA has concluded this change will maintain the same level of safety established by the 2016 ELDT rule.”

FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez added, “This effort is a common-sense way of reducing the regulatory burdens placed on CDL applicants and their employers. FMCSA continues to strategically reform burdensome regulations to improve the lives of ordinary Americans by saving them valuable time and money—while simultaneously maintaining the highest level of safety.”

FMCSA estimates that over 11,000 driver-trainees will benefit annually by this rule and see an average reduction of 27 hours in time spent completing their theory instruction. Officials noted there should be “substantial time and cost savings to these driver-trainees, as well as to the motor carriers that employ these drivers.”

The final rule also “applies only to Class B CDL holders, and does not change the behind-the-wheel (BTW) (range and public road) training requirements set forth in the 2016 ELDT rule. All driver-trainees, including those who hold a Class B CDL, must demonstrate proficiency in all elements of the BTW curriculum in a Group A vehicle.”

By eliminating the eight instructional units that are related to nondriving activities, the total number of hours of Class A theory instruction are projected to be cut by about 44.2 percent.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about FMCSA’s Entry-Level Driver Training regulations by visiting: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license/eldt