Last call for compliance: 5 musts to meet new driver training standards

After years of delay, a federal requirement setting new baselines for entry-level truck driver training (ELDT) will become effective Monday.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and industry associations have been reminding the industry about the deadline for months — there is plenty of information available from FMCSA’s ELDT webpage and from the Commercial Vehicle Training Association — so if you run a driver training school you likely know the ins and outs of the new regulation and are ready to go.

Because the regulations are not retroactive, individuals issued a CDL prior to Monday are not required to complete training for the respective CDL or endorsement. Also, if an applicant who obtains a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) prior to Monday obtains a CDL before the CLP expires, the applicant is not subject to the ELDT requirements.

But if you run a training school and have not yet made sure you comply with the new regulation, these are the top five things you need to get done as soon as possible.

1. Upgrade curriculum

Entry-level drivers must successfully complete a new prescribed program of theory and behind-the-wheel instruction before taking the CDL skills test, provided by a school or other entity listed on the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry (TPR).

The new curriculum includes both theory (training topics include basic operation, safe operating procedures, advanced operating practices, vehicle systems and reporting malfunctions, and non-driving activities) and behind-the-wheel training on a range or public road — simulators cannot be used to meet the requirements.  

2. Register in the TPR

All driver training programs run by schools or fleets must be listed in the TPR, which requires that training schools certify that their curriculum and road theory meet the new ELDT standards. Students who attempt to obtain credentials from a nonregistered training school will be rejected by their state licensing agency if the school is not registered. Schools that falsely claim to have updated curriculum could face federal criminal charges.

3. Qualify your instructors

Theory and behind-the-wheel instructors must hold the appropriate class of CDL for at least two years and have either two years of experience driving or two years of behind-the-wheel commercial vehicle instructor experience.

The ELDT regulation does not mandate a minimum number of hours behind the wheel, instead it defers to the instructor to determine when the student is proficient in safely driving a truck.

4. Ensure proper equipment and facilities

Trucks used for training new drivers must comply with applicable federal and state safety requirements and be in the same group and type that driver trainees intend to operate for their CDL skills test. The training school’s classroom and range facilities must comply with all applicable federal, state and local statutes and regulations.

5. Maintain records

The rule mandates training-related documentation be held for at least three years from the date each required record is generated or received. This includes:

  • Driver-trainee documentation, including self-certifications of compliance and a copy of the CLP.
  • 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.

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Editor: John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent