Groups Push To Restore Mandatory Behind-the-Wheel Hours For Student Truck Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 1/02/2017
While trucking remains at the top of the US job market outlook for 2017, several groups are pushing to increase behind-the-wheel training requirements for new truck drivers to be allowed on public roads. On December 21, four groups including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety the Truck Safety Coalition and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider provisions of the Final Rule for Entry-Level Driver requirements, which the agency issued on December 7th, 2016.
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The FCMSA had initially included in its proposed rule last March, that student drivers receive a minimum of 10 hours of training on a “driving range” as well as an unspecified amount of time driving on a public road. However, the final rule issued in December requires no behind-the-wheel standard for student drivers and instead defers to skills tests administered by state licensing agencies. The petitioners state that the Final Rule leaves the determination of whether a student driver has the skill set required to operate safely on public roadways - entirely in the hands of the instructor. They argue that not only is this dangerous to public safety, it's also insulting to experienced truck drivers who have dedicated years to practicing safety in the profession.
“It’s absurd that the required amount of hours behind the wheel training is zero,” says Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “Hairdressers and barbers have a minimum. Pilots have a minimum. It’s totally insulting to professional truckers that have dedicated their lives to driving safely and sharing the highways with others.”
The petitioners stress the importance of ensuring students get sufficient hours operating a commercial vehicle on public roads with an experienced instructor to encounter real-life safety critical situations. “This type of real-world training and experience that CDL candidates need, and that several bodies of experts have determined should be required, in order to enhance the ability of CDL applicants to operate a truck-trailer combination vehicle safely and to avoid crashes,” they stated in the petition. “Instead, the Final Rule does nothing more than ensure that future CDL candidates will acquire only the most rudimentary skill set needed to pass the most basic of maneuvering tests, as has always been the case, while depriving both future CDL applicants, and the traveling public of, developing better trained, more skilled novice CMV drivers.”
They also raised a number of additional points to support their argument, including the following:
- A 1995 Federal Highway Administration report entitled “Assessing the Adequacy of Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Training” determined minimum criteria on eight key factors of driver training, including time behind the wheel, which was set as “38.5 hours for heavy trucks and motor coaches as well as 9 hours for school buses.”
- Leading CDL training schools nationwide already require their students complete a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel training, ranging from 74 to 44 hours.
- Several states already have minimum behind-the-wheel training standards in place. Illinois requires 40 hours; Kentucky 45, Maine 44 hours for Class A applicants and 20 hours for Class B applicants; and Ohio at least 40 hours.
The petitioners have requested a stay of the effective date of the 2016 Final Rule until the Administrator can render a decision on this Petition for Reconsideration.