ATRI releases study analyzing new entrant driver training

user-gravatar Headshot

The American Transportation Research Institute on Wednesday, May 7, released the findings of its research on the relationship between entry-level driver training and safety outcomes. ATRI says its study is among the first ever to examine the overall duration of new entrant driver training, the instructional environment and curriculum topic areas covered, and the relative safety impact of each on new entrant driver safety performance.

ATRI – the trucking industry’s not-for-profit research organization – says its research critically examined the statistical relationship between training regimens and safety performance for more than 16,500 new commercial drivers, a sample representing nearly 30 percent of the annual new entrant population. Among the findings is the absence of a significant impact of total training duration on new entrant driver safety performance, according to the study.

“As a fleet, we have long believed that the litmus test for commercial driver training should be performance-based, and not a derivative of hours spent in training – this research bears out our hypothesis,” says Chad England, vice president of recruiting, training and safe driving for Utah-based C.R. England.

“This study provides a critical benchmark for carriers and driver training schools alike,” says Michael O’Connell, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association.

O’Connell and England both served as members of the study’s Technical Advisory Committee that – along with others from training institutions, motor carriers and driver groups – provided oversight to ATRI on the research methodology. The driver training report is available on ATRI’s website at

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed to require that newly licensed commercial driver’s license holders first complete specified minimum classroom and behind-the-wheel training from an accredited institution or program. The notice of proposed rulemaking was published Dec. 26 in the Federal Register, and comments were accepted through March 25.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

FMCSA would exempt drivers who receive their first CDLs or upgrade to another class of CDL before a date that’s three years after the agency issues a final rule; also exempt would be drivers who intend to operate exclusively intrastate.

Under the proposed rule, a state driver-licensing agency could issue a CDL only if the applicant presented a valid driver training certificate obtained from an accredited institution or program. The minimum training requirements would be based mostly on a model curriculum published in 1985 by the Federal Highway Administration, FMCSA’s predecessor. The model curriculum addresses basic operation, safe operating practices, vehicle maintenance and non-vehicle activities.

The agency proposes to require entry-level training for all types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) but to vary the curriculum according to the class of CDL. For Class A CDLs, FMCSA proposes 120 hours of minimum training – 76 hours in the classroom and 44 hours behind the wheel. For Class B and C CDLs, 90 hours of training – 58 hours in the classroom and 32 hours behind the wheel – would be required. Training institutions would be required to conduct skills tests on entry-level driver students using qualified instructors as determined by FMCSA. The training provider or program would have to be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

FMCSA’s proposal regarding behind-the-wheel training responds to a December 2005 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that a May 2004 rule on minimum training standards was inadequate because it did not require any training in the commercial vehicle. The current regulation, which the court allowed to remain in place pending a new rule, requires classroom education for entry-level drivers in medical qualification, hours-of-service rules, wellness and whistleblower protection.

For a copy of the notice of proposed rulemaking and comments, go to and search FMCSA-2007-27748.