For 20 years, one of the major concerns for veteran drivers and truck driver advocates has been the lack of clearly defined CDL (Commercial Driver License) training standards stated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The FMCSA mission statement is as follows:
The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
It would only seem logical that the first and most important requirement to assure minimal crashes, injuries, and fatalities, would be to ensure that the training for drivers of vehicles, which can weigh upward to 80,000 pounds, be of the utmost priority. Unfortunately these standards have not been clearly defined by the FMCSA, and therefore many Truck Driving Schools have allowed profits to dictate quality of training offered to career seeking students.
After many years of continuous appeals to the FMCSA by those in the industry to create stricter standards to improve the training for future drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC) to conduct a negotiated rulemaking on entry-level training for drivers of commercial motor vehicles. The committee will provide recommendations based on a consensus-based process on the development of minimum training requirements for individuals applying for a commercial driver’s license, in accordance with the requirements of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)
Now, for those not familiar with how trucking and the training to obtain a CDL works, here’s a brief summary.
You take a written test, just as you would to get a non-commercial license. If you pass, you receive a CLP ( Commercial Learners Permit) You then go to a truck driving school and pay anywhere from $1500- $7500 to receive enough instruction and training to be able to take a “Skills Test” to receive your CDL license ( You must have your CLP 14 days before being allowed to take the skills test.) While you have a CLP, you must have a CDL holder in the front seat at all times while driving.
Most quick training schools and company training schools are about 3 weeks in duration and offer little to no over the road driver training, usually teaching students on lots marked with cones.
Note: Although most students who graduate CDL school and then take Skills Test have little to no actual Over the Road (OTR) driving experience, there are schools which do offer more training. Many of these schools are either vo-tech or community colleges. There are also private schools offering much more training, preparing students responsibly. These schools do this because of their integrity and high standards, not because of government guidelines and rules.
Who gives the skills test?
States develop their own tests which must meet the minimum Federal standards provided for in Subpart G and H of 49 CFR Part 383. Model driver and examiner manuals and tests have been prepared and distributed to the States to use, if they wish.
* Each basic knowledge test, i.e., the test covering the areas referred to in 49 CFR 383.111 for the applicable vehicle group, shall contain at least 30 items, exclusive of the number of items testing air brake knowledge.
* To pass the knowledge tests (general and endorsement), applicants must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions.
* To pass the skills test, applicants must successfully perform all the required skills (listed in 49 CFR 383.113 through 49 CFR 383.123)
Third Party Skills Test ( such as Carrier Training Schools)
Third Party Skills Testing:
A State may authorize a person (including another State, an employer, a private driver training facility or other private institution, or a department, agency or instrumentality of a local government) to administer the skills tests, if the following conditions are met:
* Tests must be the same as those given by the State.
* The third party has an agreement with the State containing, at a minimum, provisions that:
o Allow the FMCSA, or its representative, and the State to conduct random examinations, inspections, and audits without prior notice.
o Require the State to conduct on-site inspection at least yearly.
o Require that all third party examiners meet the same qualification and training standards as State examiners.
* At least annually, State employees must evaluate the programs by taking third party tests as if they were test applicants, or by testing a sample of drivers tested by the third party and then comparing pass/fail rates.
* Reserve unto the State the right to take prompt and appropriate remedial action against the third-party testers in the event that the third-party fails to comply with State or Federal standards for the CDL testing program, or with any other terms of the third-party contract.
Trucking Training Companies request more Leniency of training standards as FMCSA attempts to establish Stricter training standards.
Although, the ELDTAC committee appears to attempt to create a rule to IMPROVE training standards, C.R. England and CRST have ironically requested an exemption to reduce standards. Both C.R. England and CRST have requested that drivers who have their CLP and passed a Skills Test will be able to drive WITHOUT a CDL Holder sitting in the front seat next to them. This will allow the truck to RUN TEAM ( while the CLP holder has little to no OTR driving experience), running the truck 24/7 as each driver sleeps while the other drives. This is Team Driving, not new driver training.
Although there were hundreds of objections last year regarding compromising safety when the C.R. England exemption request was posted on FMCSA website, the FMCSA granted the C.R. England exemption request regardless
CRST’s exemption request remains open on FMCSA’s website and comments are due Feb, 2016.
Read “Commercial Driver’s License Standards: Application for Exemption; CRST Expedited (CRST)”
FMCSA’s response to CRST’s exemption request should be this:
‘Because we are presently investigating and creating Training Standards for ENTRY LEVEL DRIVERS at the ELDTAC Committee , we can not offer you a decision at this time.’
A petition has been created on We the People to ensure training companies do not decrease the already lacking training standards.
Summary and Facts to know which describe the seriousness of this petition, including the dangers of inexperienced drivers on the highways, and the importance of commenting on the FMCSA Docket regarding CRST Exemption Request as well as the need to sign the Petition.
1) It is and has been known for many years( over 20) that students coming out of CDL SCHOOLS holding a CLP ( commercial learners permit) are not qualified to drive OTR as most have ZERO OTR driving experience from the schools.
2) CLP holders must take a Skills Test to receive their CDL license. The Skills test does not include OTR driving and the “tester” is in a grey area.
3) After the CLP holder passes the Skills Test, most of the time they do not have much more driving experience than they did when they first entered the Truck Driving School.
4) The Insurance companies understand this, and that is why MOST Companies CAN NOT hire a new CDL holder as the Insurance Company requires “X” amount of time driving experience before they will insure them. These Companies understand they do not have enough driving experience and are an accident risk.
HOWEVER: The large carriers are “Self-Insured” therefore they bypass not being able to “get insurance”, thus they take on new CDL holders to and act as “training company” These companies are called “training companies”, but are actually Team Driving Profit makers.
5) Many of these companies are awarded government subsidies for “training new CDL holders” and giving an opportunity for creating new jobs. This is a money maker for these companies, especially when the turnover rate is over 100% for these new drivers. The failure rate for new drivers coming into the industry remains HIGH also. Churning New Drivers is a profit maker for 2 reasons:
a) they receive government subsidies
b) They hire the new CDL Holder at much lower wages, hauling freight for as low as 15cpm, running team. Make no mistake, running that truck 24/7 while paying 2 drivers low wages is a MONEY MAKER.
6) The FMCSA understands the degree of lack of training of CDL schools as well as the exploitation of the Self Insured Carriers masquerading as Training Companies.
They know this because of extreme pressure from the Trucking Community and were compelled by MAP21 to create STANDARDS for ENTRY LEVEL TRAINING. The FMCSA ELDTAC committee meets to eventually establish final training standards. ( It has been over a year since the committee was created)
I myself have been writing about the dangers and exploitation of students from CDL Training Schools since 2000. Everyone in the industry knows many CDL Training Schools are a farce, teach little, and are a money maker. We recommend vo-tech and community colleges as well as a few private schools dedicated to superb training. We do not recommend carrier training schools.
Related Article by Desiree Wood: Does this Sound Safe to You? If Not, Please Take Action …
7) According to the Laws the way they are written now, a CLP holder must have a CDL holder sitting in the front seat with them while they are driving. Notice it does not require that CDL holder in that seat to be a trainer, nor does it state that the CDL holder needs to have any required driving time experience.( as they are supervising the CLP holder who HAS LITTLE TO NO driving experience.) In other words, it is not uncommon to have a CLP with no driving experience, driving team with a CDL holder of 6 months or less!! So much for FMCSA being about SAFETY!
NOTE: Even though this may sound ludicrous to most, what it more outrageous, is the fact that training companies are requesting exemptions and more leniency from these already unsafe requirements!
8) The CLP holder who passes the “skills test” must pick up their hard copy of their license in their home state. Training companies usually send them by Bus to pick up their license.
9) Now, CRST is asking for an exemption, saying that their CLP holder who has passed the so called “skills” test” should be able to drive with a CDL holder who DOES NOT HAVE TO SIT IN THE FRONT SEAT WITH THEM. They state that it is a formality to pick up their CDL in their Home State, and it is causing financial hardship on CRST, requesting that the FMCSA allow the CLP holder to DRIVE TEAM ( not having to have the CDL holder in the seat next to them, but rather sleeping in the bunk) so they can “drive the CLP holder” home, and moving freight and allowing for the CLP holder to make $$
The problem with this is:
a) the CLP holder makes close to nothing as long as they do not have their CDL in hand
b) CRST would have up to 6 months to get them home, meaning they have 6 months to exploit the driver for hardly any pay . Most quit before the 6 months…. And then owe them 5-7 thousand dollars for their schooling. Yup, that free schooling wasn’t so free after all.
COMMENTS SHOULD BE MADE TO THE FMCSA COMMENT SECTION. It is imperative that we ALL do! If for nothing else, but at least a record of thousands of people saying how unsafe the FMCSA Training Standards (or lack of) are!
The Petition must be signed. Please take the time and fill in your info and then confirm when you receive your email confirmation.
The Importance of the Petition is to create an even greater awareness to the general public who have no idea of how unsafe the roads are as they drive the highways with people who are required to have ZERO driving experience and just a permit.
Remember, the petition was created because the FMCSA already granted CR ENGLAND the exemption, despite of 100’s of comments opposing and saying how unsafe it is. THEY GRANTED IT ANYWAY.
We are hoping the petition will override ( OR PREVENT) another poor safety decision should it again be made by the FMCSA, allowing even more leniency, rather than increasing Entry Level Training standards, which is what they are supposed to be in the process of DOING!
Final Notes and Additional Facts
1) You have until Feb 4th to make your comment to the FMCSA.
2) Also note; by hiring new CDL and CLP graduates at Low wages, this keeps experienced driver wages down as well as freight rates, which keep owner operator profits also down.
3) We need to Demand statistics for accidents from drivers with less than 1 years experience. These records are not to be found anywhere, and yet the safety departments have the data. They are not allowing the data to be known.
It is these statistics that are combined with ALL CDL drivers data, that is causing more regulations and “safety” gadgets to be applied in Trucks.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS; IMPROVE SAFETY BY INCREASING TRAINING STANDARDS (along with eliminating racing the 14 hour clock) … and wages will go up and the need for more regulations will be lessened.