The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced a new rule establishing minimum training standards for all entry-level commercial drivers seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or certain endorsements requiring special skills and additional training.
CDL requirements can vary slightly from state to state, underscoring the need for more uniform federal standards because commercial trucks and buses seldom operate within the borders of a single state. The FMCSA also said the new rule, which goes into effect Feb. 6, 2017, establishes minimum standards for commercial driving schools.
According to the FMCSA, the CDL training requirements not only emphasize safety and save lives, but promote driving efficiency as well, which will lead to reduced fuel consumption and emissions, vehicle maintenance cost reductions, and industry-wide performance improvements. Congress mandated the rulemaking as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).
Under the final rule, CDL applicants will be tested for proficiency in knowledge and real-life, behind-the-wheel training on a driving range and on a public road, with training provided under an instructional program that meets FMCSA standards. The federal standards focus on proven proficiency and do not include a minimum number of hours to complete a driving training program.
First-time applicants for Class A and Class B CDLs, and current CDL holders seeking a license upgrade or additional endorsement required to haul hazardous materials, or to operate a motor coach or school bus, will be required to undergo mandatory, comprehensive training. The rule applies to trainees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories.
Military drivers, farmers, and firefighters are not bound to federal CDL requirements and are not subject to this Final Rule, the FCSA said.
“Ensuring that drivers are properly trained is a critical element in improving road safety for everyone,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The entry-level training standards for large truck and bus operators put forth today exemplify a commitment to safety from a broad coalition of commercial motor vehicle stakeholders.”
While the new rule takes effect in just a few weeks, the FMCSA issued an extended compliance date of Feb. 20, 2020, giving commercial driving students and trainers more than three years to plan and make any changes.