FMCSA amending driver training regs for drivers upgrading to Class A CDL

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FMCSA is amending its Entry-Level Driver Training rule to eliminate some classroom instruction for Class B CDL holders upgrading to a Class A CDL. (Photo by Jim Allen | 365 Trucking)FMCSA is amending its Entry-Level Driver Training rule to eliminate some classroom instruction for Class B CDL holders upgrading to a Class A CDL. (Photo by Jim Allen | 365 Trucking)

Drivers upgrading from a Class B commercial driver’s license holders to a Class A CDL will soon have an easier path to do so. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Wednesday published a final rule that updates the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Entry-Level Driver Training regulations.

The original rule, published in December 2016, required the same classroom instruction for first-time CDL applicants and for Class B CDL holders upgrading to a Class A CDL. FMCSA is now amending that rule, determining that “because Class B CDL holders have prior training or experience, they are not required to receive the same level of theory training as individuals who have never held a CDL.” The rule does not change any of the behind-the-wheel training requirements in the driver training rule.

The new rulemaking adds an optional theory instruction upgrade curriculum for those upgrading from a Class B to a Class A that removes eight instructional units involving “non-driving activities.” Class B CDL holders will still have the option to complete the full Class A theory instruction curriculum, which includes the eight “non-driving activities” units, if they so choose.

The units cut from the curriculum for those upgrading are: handling and documenting cargo, environmental compliance issues, post-crash procedures, external communications, whistleblower/coercion, trip planning, drugs/alcohol and medical requirements.

FMCSA says these units are nearly identical to instructional units in the Class B CDL curriculum. The agency is keeping “non-driving” instructional units on hours of service requirements and fatigue and wellness awareness.

The changes in curriculum do not set a required minimum number of instruction hours, but the training provider would have to cover all topics in the curriculum, and trainees would have to score at least an 80 percent on the written exam that accompanies the curriculum.

FMCSA estimates that approximately 11,340 drivers will be affected by the rule change annually, who will experience a 27-hour reduction in classroom training.

The rule will go into effect 60 days after its publication Wednesday in the Federal Register with a compliance date of Feb. 7, 2020 – the same compliance date as the original Entry-Level Driver Training rule.