Cover Story
In Session: Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee
The progress of the driver training advisory committee was slow-going in early stages, but some clarity has evolved on the big question of which drivers would be affected by a training mandate.

By Jami Jones, managing editor

Some preconceived notions and misunderstandings about a forthcoming driver training mandate were laid to rest midway through the meetings of the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee.

A committee of 26 industry stakeholders has been tasked with developing the framework of an entry-level driver training regulation that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will work from in developing the regulation.

As of press time, the committee had completed three of the six scheduled two-day meetings.

While a few bits and pieces of the framework have been agreed upon, one fundamental issue has plagued the committee – which drivers the regulation will apply to. At the midway point the committee still had not completely settled on which drivers the regulation would apply to. Tripping up the group is not whether drivers applying for their CDLs for the first time would be subject to the regs, but whether drivers reinstating licenses would be. That decision has been pushed on down the road, for the second time in two meetings.

While the committee hasn’t settled on which drivers will be subject to the upcoming mandate, it did become crystal clear as to which providers of training will be governed by the future regs.

Much of the language considered by the committee was perceived by many on the committee to be exclusive to formal schools. That raised eyebrows from a couple of committee members.

First, Carl Spatocco, the regional vice president of educational affiliates of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Training Association, asked if the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was seeking to regulate truck driving schools.

Larry Minor, associate administrator for policy of the FMCSA, said the agency is tasked with ensuring that all training providers are providing quality training to their students.

“You don’t have the authority to regulate truck driving schools,” Spatocco replied.

“If the schools don’t meet the standards, then we won’t accept training certificates (from those schools),” Minor said. “It’s regulation through the back door.

“Our goal is that all students are learning and that each and every student is properly educated and prepared.”

With the question of the schools and training providers that are subject to the regs cleared up, another concern stepped back in the limelight.

Bryan Spoon, the only active truck driver on the committee, reminded members that owners and operators are mandated to be able to train under the upcoming rules.

Moving Ahead For Progress in the 21st Century specifically states owners and operators will be subject to the regs, and thereby can train individuals.

In the second meeting of the committee, Spoon rallied support from the group in carving out a special provision for people who will train three or fewer trainees a year.

That left the door open for small-business truckers to train friends, relatives or others. That move will give small trucking operations the option under the upcoming regs to train for themselves rather than having to pay for school.

In spite of that agreed-upon special provision, as the committee sorted through what would be expected if training providers, “the little guy” wasn’t mentioned much – at first.

Spoon’s persistent questioning throughout the third committee meeting conditioned members to consider the impact on small business when making proposals.

For example, when the group discussed what would be required of instructional personnel, it was suggested that classroom teachers be required by a state to have a teaching certificate.

Minor, with FMCSA, agreed that those training three or fewer people annually could do so as long as their CDL was in good standing and they’d use appropriate class equipment for the training sought.

While none of the committee’s decisions are set in stone, it is clear that FMCSA is looking to comply with the mandates for driver training in MAP-21.

That means public and/or private schools, as well as motor carriers all the way down to owner-operators, will be subject to the regs – and with provisions made for those training three or fewer to reduce the burden.

Some skepticism crept into the conversation that any special provisions would open the door to CDL mills.

Fortunately, OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth had already set the ball into motion and found support for a national registry of training providers and trainers.

Grenerth made the pitch for the registry in the second driver training committee meeting where it gained quick support from the FMCSA as well.

A registry of providers would allow the agency to track success and failure of students post-course completion and if necessary track back to any substandard training.

That registry would potentially also track the operators training three or fewer people a year – giving FMCSA a way to make sure they are limited to three or fewer trainees and that the training is up to snuff.

When the conversation about provisions for smaller operations possibly having unintended consequences popped up, Spoon reminded committee members of the safeguards that were already added conceptually by the committee.

He said between tightly written curriculum requirements, tough proficiency tests and the registry, rogue and poor trainers would both show up on FMCSA’s enforcement radar.

Halfway through the six scheduled meetings of the committee, agreement on various areas began to fall in place. Yet it would appear there is a significant amount of road to cover.

Currently the committee is working toward a deadline of May 29 to reach agreement. With only three meetings left until that deadline, pace of consensus will likely have to speed up in order for the committee to have a substantive framework to present to the FMCSA – and that is if the group can reach agreement.

That left the door open for small-business truckers to train friends, relatives or others. That move will give small trucking operations the option under the upcoming regs to train for themselves rather than having to pay for school.

In spite of that agreed-upon special provision, as the committee sorted through what would be expected if training providers, “the little guy” wasn’t mentioned much – at first.

Spoon’s persistent questioning throughout the third committee meeting conditioned members to consider the impact on small business when making proposals.

For example, when the group discussed what would be required of instructional personnel, it was suggested that classroom teachers be required by a state to have a teaching certificate.

Minor, with FMCSA, agreed that those training three or fewer people annually could do so as long as their CDL was in good standing and they’d use appropriate class equipment for the training sought.

While none of the committee’s decisions are set in stone, it is clear that FMCSA is looking to comply with the mandates for driver training in MAP-21.

That means public and/or private schools, as well as motor carriers all the way down to owner-operators, will be subject to the regs – and with provisions made for those training three or fewer to reduce the burden.

Some skepticism crept into the conversation that any special provisions would open the door to CDL mills.

Fortunately, OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth had already set the ball into motion and found support for a national registry of training providers and trainers.

Grenerth made the pitch for the registry in the second driver training committee meeting where it gained quick support from the FMCSA as well.

A registry of providers would allow the agency to track success and failure of students post-course completion and if necessary track back to any substandard training.

That registry would potentially also track the operators training three or fewer people a year – giving FMCSA a way to make sure they are limited to three or fewer trainees and that the training is up to snuff.

When the conversation about provisions for smaller operations possibly having unintended consequences popped up, Spoon reminded committee members of the safeguards that were already added conceptually by the committee.

He said between tightly written curriculum requirements, tough proficiency tests and the registry, rogue and poor trainers would both show up on FMCSA’s enforcement radar.

Halfway through the six scheduled meetings of the committee, agreement on various areas began to fall in place. Yet it would appear there is a significant amount of road to cover.

Currently the committee is working toward a deadline of May 29 to reach agreement. With only three meetings left until that deadline, pace of consensus will likely have to speed up in order for the committee to have a substantive framework to present to the FMCSA – and that is if the group can reach agreement. LL