WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sighs of relief emanated from the audience at the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) annual conference upon learning from a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration representative that a full delay is being planned for new entry-level driver training (ELDT) regulations.
Larry Minor, FMCSA’s associate administrator for policy, on Tuesday compared a full delay until Feb. 7, 2022, to the anticipation of boarding a flight in 10 minutes, but looking outside and not seeing your plane at the gate.
“It’s probably not going to be leaving on time,” Minor said. He added that an official announcement on a delay is forthcoming. An official delay would also require additional rulemaking.
NASDPTS recommended to FMCSA in a letter sent over the summer that it delay implementation of the entire ELDT regulation, following an announcement by the federal agency that the electronic database component was not ready.
Minor reiterated to NASDPTS attendees that the database was still not ready for the scheduled Feb. 7, 2020 release. Rather than implement a partial delay and to avoid confusion, the FMCSA is moving ahead toward a complete postponement.
The new rules will require ELDT certification information to be uploaded into the Training Provider Register (TPR). Meanwhile, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLA) would receive driver-specific training information.
There are five separate curricula included in the ELDT final rule. Those include Class A Commercial Driving License (CDL), Class B CDL, Hazardous Materials Endorsement, Passenger Endorsement, and School Bus Endorsement.
The Class A/B CDL training requires both theory or classroom instruction and a behind-the-wheel (BTW) instruction, which is required on both a closed track and on a public road.
The new rule, Minor explained, should help cut the cost of upgrading from a Class B CDL to a Class A CDL by an average of $92 per driver. It would require 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.
The final rule addresses a requirement included in the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21) passed by Congress.
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However, Minor advised that driver certificates are not to be handed out to everyone—just to those who deserve it and are ready. He told the state directors in attendance that school districts and bus companies should continue working with new driver applicants until they are deemed suitable to receive their certification. A specific amount of training hours are not required, he added.
Those giving the BTW instruction are required to hold a CDL of the same or higher class and possess all of the necessary endorsements that are needed to operate the commercial vehicle. They must also have at least two years of experience driving that vehicle or have two years of experience as a BTW instructor.
Minor confirmed that states currently with training requirements that are above and beyond FMCSA minimum requirements may continue to use those requirements for training new applicants.
However, Minor suggested that the commercial vehicle employers also direct the applicants to the FMCSA website, so that new drivers become familiar with what is required of them on the federal level.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated, as the original reporting inaccurately referred to FMCSA’s presentation at NASDPTS as a confirmed ELDT delay. Instead, FMCSA must propose additional rulemaking before any postponement is finalized.