The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is relaxing training requirements for Class B commercial truck drivers seeking to upgrade to a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) by eliminating redundant classroom instruction.
The rule change, published by the FMCSA in the Federal Register on March 14, is actually a rollback of driver training regulations published in December 2016. Under that rule, truck drivers upgrading to a Class A CDL from a Class B CDL must undergo the same level of “theory training” as individuals obtaining a CDL for the first time.
In addition to restricting the types of heavy trucks a driver can operate, the difference between a Class A and Class B CDL is primarily one of weight. A Class A CDL is required to operate tractor-trailers or any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds.
“Because Class B CDL holders have prior training or experience, they should not be required to receive the same level of theory training as individuals who have never held a CDL,” according to the FMCSA.
The agency says it estimates that the new rule will benefit more than 11,000 driver-trainees each year by eliminating the time and expense of 27 hours of classroom instruction. Motor carriers that employ the driver-trainees will also benefit from the rule to the tune of $18 million in annual school and regulatory expenses, the FMCSA says.
It’s unclear how the new rule might affect public safety. While some regulatory rollbacks can save money, they can also cost more in terms of weakened safety for workers and the general public. The FMCSA says it “presumes” the change in CDL requirements “will maintain the same level of safety established by the 2016 … rule.”
This final rule becomes effective on May 6, 2019. The compliance date for the final rule is Feb. 7, 2020.