FMCSA Focusing On Commercial Vehicle Driver Training

On January 7, 2013 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration held a “public listening session” to gather input on the topic of entry-level training for commercial vehicle drivers. The FMSCA is in the process of drafting rules to establish minimum standards for entry-level training for commercial vehicle drivers.

History of the rule-making effort

Commercial vehicle driver training has been an issue with which the FMSCA has dealt for several decades. As early as 1991, Congress required the FMSCA to set training rules, and two years later the agency issued proposed rules. By 2004, the rules were finalized, requiring commercial vehicle drivers to have certain knowledge that surpassed what they would need to know to pass a Commercial Driver’s License exam.

Some people believed that the rules did not go far enough. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies that cooperate to advance road safety initiatives, brought a lawsuit claiming that the rules were insufficient because they did not require on-the-road training. The court ruled in favor of the AHAS and the FMSCA had to revise the rules.

In 2007, the agency issued proposed changes to the rules so they mandate that applicants for CDLs graduate from an approved training program that includes behind-the-wheel training as well as classroom instruction. The FMSCA plans to use the information it received from the listening session, as well as other research it is conducting, to prepare final rules. Under the current highway bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, the FMSCA has until October 1, 2013 to come up with final rules.

Challenges to making rules

The rulemaking process has been a long and arduous one for several reasons. The first reason is the cost. The rules will create the largest federal program for training to enter a profession. The FMSCA also does not have data to support the idea that the rules will improve road safety, thereby justifying the cost the rules would create. The agency is currently looking in the Motor Carrier Safety Management Information System and Commercial Driver’s License Information System databases to compare the safety performance of new drivers with more experience drivers and obtain proof that the training requirements are necessary.

Finally, the question of the scope of the rules is not yet settled. Federal regulators believe that the rules should apply to all driver training programs, whether interstate or intrastate. However, it is not clear that they have the authority to regulate intrastate training.

Speak with an attorney

Lack of proper training in commercial vehicle drivers puts everyone on the road at risk. When commercial vehicles get into accidents with passenger vehicles, those in the passenger vehicles often suffer far worse injuries because of the size difference between the vehicles. If you have been injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, contact a personal injury lawyer who can help you recover just and proper compensation.