WASHINGTON, DC — Four groups have petitioned the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to reconsider provisions of the Final Rule for Entry-Level Driver requirements, which the agency issued on December 7.
The final rule does not include a requirement for 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training for new drivers. Last March, FCMSA had included in its proposed rule a minimum of 10 hours of training on a “driving range” as well as an unspecified amount of time driving on a public road. The final rule requires no behind-the-wheel standard for student drivers, instead deferring to skills tests administered by state licensing agencies. The petition notes that under the new rule, the determination of whether a student driver has the skill set required to operate safely on public roadways is “entirely in the hands of the instructor.”
The petition was filed by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the Truck Safety Coalition and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways on December 21. In it, the petitioners noted that:
“The performance standard in the Final Rule does not ensure that CDL applicants who can pass the state CDL skills test will spend any time actually operating a CMV on public roads with an experienced instructor encountering 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. 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.”
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, told Heavy Duty Trucking, “It’s absurd that the required amount of hours behind the wheel training is zero. 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 also made the following points in support of their position:
- 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.”
- A 2005 rejection of a proposed rule for Entry-Level Driver Training by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for being woefully deficient, “specifically because it failed to require behind-the-wheel training hours,” noting the findings of the 1995 Adequacy Report. The Court held, “The Adequacy Report determined that effective training for CMV drivers required practical, on-the-road instruction on how to operate a heavy vehicle.”
- FCMSA’s own response to the 2005 ruling, which included a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in 2007 “to revise the standards for mandatory training requirements for entry-level operators of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate operations who are required to possess a commercial driver’s license.” This NPRM included a requirement of 44 behind-the-wheel hours for Class A applicants and 32 behind-the-wheel hours for Class B applicants.
- 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 contend the 2016 Final Rule is “not in the public interest because it does not advance safety beyond current practice in which any and all untrained CDL applicants can perform basic minor movements of CMVs and obtain a CDL without being exposed to the real-world experience of driving a CMV on public roads while receiving instruction from a qualified instructor.”
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.
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