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In December of 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it had established a new rule regarding the training standards for entry-level commercial truck drivers as a part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The new rule, dubbed “ELDT final rule” was set to go in place on February 6, 2017, but President Trump ordered a freeze on the new regulations. The actual date of compliance is February 7, 2020.

The Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) final rule applies only to individuals applying for a Class A or Class B commercial driver’s license for the first time, or a hazardous materials driver, or a CDL holder that wants to upgrade their license from Class B to Class A. The new rule requires that drivers complete a theory and behind-the-wheel instruction and demonstrate proficiency in both the theory and behind the wheel portions of the curricula. FMCSA claims that the new ELDT curriculum and behind the wheel instruction will save motor carriers $18 million annually by reducing the regulatory burdens placed on CDL applicants and their employers. FMCSA estimates that because of this new drivers training program, there will be an average reduction of 27 hours spent in theory instruction which will result in cost savings to driver-trainees and the motor carriers that employ new drivers. FMCSA estimates that 11,340 driver-trainees will be affected by this rule in the short-term, while over 113,000 drivers will be affected over a 10 year period.

It is no doubt that truck drivers need specialized training. The more experienced and better trained drivers are, greatly minimizes the chances that an accident will occur. Upgraded curriculum to the ELDT final rule focuses on speed management, space management, night operation, extreme driving conditions, and fatigue and wellness awareness- five areas of trucking driving that are especially prone to cause accidents resulting in tractor-trailer turn-overs. Another area of upgraded curriculum is identification of vehicle malfunction, roadside inspection, and maintenance. Under the new ELDT final rule, an inexperienced driver will need to start out with a commercial learner’s permit and have a clean driver’s record for 10 years. Further, the truck driver will need to have their commercial learner’s permit for at least 14 days before they are eligible for a skills test. Those who are already Class B CDL holders are not required to receive the same level of theory as new drivers, since they have prior training and experience. In its final review of the ELDT final rule, FMSCA further stated that there are non-safety benefits as well, citing to reductions in fuel consumption, vehicle maintenance, and repair costs.

Poole and Shaffery will continue to monitor the ELDT final rule outcome, as petitions for reconsideration are soon set to be heard.