Beginning February 7, 2020, the process for obtaining and making changes to a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is changing.
Changes to the entry-level driver training requirements are so substantial that they may be unrecognizable to some, requiring communication to drivers, managers, and others at the motor carrier.
Federal regulations place specific training requirements on those defined as “entry-level drivers.” Entry-level drivers are those:
- Applying for their initial CDL,
- Upgrading their current CDL, or
- Obtaining a passenger, school bus, or hazardous materials endorsement (HME) for the first time.
Drivers must complete the prescribed training before taking a CDL skills test.
Only schools or other entities listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Training Provider Registry (TPR) may offer entry-level driver training.
The companies are placed on the TPR if they meet specific criteria, including use of a mandated curriculum and qualified instructors, as well as meeting licensing requirements, where applicable. Facilities and equipment must comply with all applicable federal, state, and/or local statutes and regulations.
Training will consist of theory and behind-the-wheel instruction.
The curriculum must cover 30 specific topics under five areas of instruction:
- Basic operation,
- Safe operating procedures,
- Advanced operating procedures,
- Vehicle systems and reporting malfunctions, and
- Non-driving activities.
The required topics within each area include, but are not limited to basic control, visual search, vehicle inspections, hours of service, and trip planning. There is no minimum number of hours that driver-trainees must spend on theory instruction.
Training providers must assess the driver trainee’s proficiency in each unit of instruction. Trainees must achieve an overall minimum score of 80% on the theory assessment when tested.
Behind-the-wheel training is performed on both a range and public road. Instruction will cover several topics, including (but not limited to) vehicle controls, speed and space management, backing, and parking.
The trainee will operate a vehicle of the same group or type that he or she intends to use for the CDL skills test. The instructor will assess the trainee’s proficiency in each of the required elements of behind-the-wheel training.
What About Endorsements?
The passenger or school bus endorsement curriculum includes both theory and behind-the-wheel instruction. The HME requires the theory instruction but does not require behind-the-wheel training.
By midnight of the second business day after the driver-trainee completes the training, the provider must electronically transmit training certification information through FMCSA’s TPR website.
FMCSA will share information on the completion of training with the state driver licensing agency (SDLA). Once received by the SDLA, drivers in need of a behind-the-wheel test from the SDLA are permitted to take the test (new CDL, upgraded CDL, adding passenger or school bus endorsement). Also, HME applicants are permitted to take the HME written test through the SDLA.
The Motor Carrier’s Role
Since the motor carrier does not technically have a role in driver training (unless it is conducting training as a provider listed on the TPR), its function may be to assist the driver in finding an acceptable training provider and helping the driver understand the process from start to finish.
Once properly licensed and/or endorsed, the motor carrier will have qualified drivers to operate its company vehicles safely.