A driver-training regulation 30 years in the works that finally came into effect last year even now has many trucking fleets in a scurry to comply. That’s because it sets a mandatory baseline for the training of entry-level truck drivers — at a time when the trucking industry continues to grapple with high turnover and changing driver-pool demographics.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) final rule is a negotiated rulemaking, thoroughly informed by reams of industry input over the decades and forged through years of back and forth between FMCSA and the courts. The final rule was issued in December 2016, with full implementation last February.
According to FMCSA, the ELDT rule was based, in part, on consensus recommendations from the agency’s Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee, a negotiated rulemaking committee that held a series of meetings back in 2015. The rule was mandated under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) highway bill, which took effect on Oct. 1, 2021.
Implementing the rule is toughest on fleets that did not already have some sort of comprehensive training programs for new commercial drivers’ license holders in place. These carriers now must look to registered third-party providers to ensure compliance of their new-to-the-industry hires or set up their own ELDT-complaint training. Those fleets that did have similar driver training up and running can adjust their programs to meet the new ELDT standards and register as providers.
In simple terms, the ELDT rule sets new federal minimum standards for CDL training schools, including those operated by motor carriers.
Any company that trains entry-level drivers to get their CDL for the first time is subject to the rules. For-profit CDL schools, non-profit community colleges, local trade organizations, private fleets running dock-to-driver programs, and over-the-road fleets with their own schools are all examples of organizations that must apply to the registry.
When registering with FMCSA, training providers self-certify that they meet applicable federal and state training requirements.
4 Things to Know About ELDT
- The ELDT rule only sets training requirements for those seeking to:
- Obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time.
- Upgrade an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL.
- Obtain a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time.
- The ELDT regulations are not retroactive. Drivers issued a CDL or an S, P, or H endorsement prior to Feb. 7, 2022, are not required to complete training for their respective CDL or endorsement. Also, an applicant who obtained a commercial learner’s permit before Feb. 7, 2022, and obtains a CDL before their commercial learner’s permit expires, is not subject to the ELDT requirements. Any driver who meets one of the exceptions for taking a skills test in 49 CFR Part 383 is also exempt from the ELDT requirements.
- A state is not permitted to administer the CDL skills or knowledge test to a driver if they cannot electronically verify that these requirements are met. However, a state may issue a CLP to a driver who has not yet completed entry-level driver training.
- FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry retains a record of which CDL applicants have completed the new training and certification process outlined in the ELDT regulations. States verify that certification information has been submitted to the registry before allowing a driver to take their required CDL skills or knowledge test.
What Do Drivers Need to do to Meet ELDT Requirements?
Prospective entry-level drivers subject to the Entry-Level Driver Training regulations must select a training provider listed on the Training Provider Registry, which may include the fleet hiring them.
Critical to bear in mind: This training must be completed before the driver takes a commercial driver’s license skills test or, if the driver is applying for the H endorsement, the knowledge test.
Perhaps due to providers being allowed to self-certify, FMCSA states, “Drivers are strongly encouraged to use care when selecting a training provider that will help them meet their specific ELDT requirements.”
The FMCSA recommends that those seeking to become commercial drivers download the ELDT minimum federal curricula requirements to learn more about training topics required for each applicable license and endorsement.
A few other things FMCSA says drivers should know:
- Federal regulations allow receiving ELDT training and taking the CDL skills test in a state other than the state a driver is licensed in.
- States with training requirements that exceed the federal minimum standard may prohibit a driver from taking the skills or, in the case of the H endorsement, knowledge test, until the driver meets their state, as well as federal, requirements.
- For more information on a state’s training requirements, contact the state Department of Transportation, Department of Education, local business licensing authorities, or a local state driver licensing agency, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Many options exist to assist CDL applicants in obtaining funding to cover the cost of entry-level driver training. Look into contacting state Workforce Development offices; ask employers about tuition assistance programs and tuition reimbursement programs; and research employer-based training programs.
FMCSA also advises that it has heard from some CDL applicants that they are “experiencing difficulty locating a training provider that offers only behind-the-wheel training, as some providers require trainees to enroll in both theory and [behind-the-wheel]. CDL applicants should be aware of this and do their due diligence if they intend to enroll in theory training with one provider and BTW with a different provider.”
Once ELDT training is completed, each driver should check his or her compliance record by reviewing the information the training provider or providers have submitted to the Training Provider Registry at https://tpr.fmcsa.dot.gov/Check.
Rule Unlikely to Change
The Commercial Vehicle Training Association, which represents 72 CDL training schools operating in 43 states, says it strongly supports the FMCSA’s ELDT rule, but encourages FMCSA to “fine-tune its” implementation.
“While FMCSA did not incorporate all of the ELDTAC recommendations into its final rule, specifically an agreed-upon minimum of 30 hours of required [behind-the-wheel] training for Class A programs, CVTA believes it will greatly enhance highway safety because the curriculum requirements and demonstration of student skills performance far exceeds what most states currently require,” CVTA wrote in an association policy statement.
A recent bill, S.4861 (TRUCKS Act of 2022), introduced in September by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), would exempt employees in certain farm-related service industries and employees of state, local, and tribal governments from complying with ELDT requirements. It would also allow states to issue restricted commercial driver’s licenses to owners and employees of certain small businesses, and for other purposes.
The ELDT rule took three decades to be put in place and is well-received by trucking lobbies, so it’s not likely to be rewritten. Rounds’ bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and has yet to secure a single cosponsor from either party, which indicates it’s not going anywhere fast — if at all — in the new Congress.
This article appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.