The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule is set to take effect Feb. 7, establishing for the first time training standards for truck drivers looking to enter the industry.
The ELDT rule, finalized in early 2017, sets the minimum Federal requirements for training that entry-level drivers must complete before being permitted to take certain commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills or knowledge tests on or after February 7, 2022.
Al Hanley, III, President of Education and Training for TransForce Group, called the ELDT rule "one of the most significant industry wide changes since the 1991 implementation of the CDL license."
Originally slated to take effect in February 2020 but postponed two years to allow FMCSA to further build out the needed IT infrastructure, the rule only applies to CDL applicants who receive their licenses after the rule’s effective date, including would-be drivers applying for their initial Class A or Class B CDL; those upgrading a current CDL; and drivers seeking a hazardous materials endorsement for the first time.
Required training in the rule – both classroom and behind-the-wheel driving – includes the basic operation of a vehicle, vehicle control systems and dashboard instruments, pre- and post-trip inspections, backing and docking, distracted driving, roadside inspections, hours of service, driver-whistleblower protections and procedures, and more.
"The ELDT is a positive step forward for the transportation industry," MTC Truck Driver Training Safety and Compliance Manager Terry Sanders said. "Standardized training and clear expectations will save lives and improve safety for the motoring public as a whole. There are schools who teach the bare minimum for a student to pass a CDL test and those students are not prepared to be employed."
The rule requires training to be completed by an FMCSA-approved provider from the Training Provider Registry – a database established by the rule. The Training Provider Registry requires any CDL training organization, including fleets, to register and self-certify that their program is compliant with the rule. While there are currently nearly 7,000 certified trainers in the Registry, Hanley said that might not be enough.
"One concern for the industry is the shortage of qualified instructors and the cost to add more instructors to a program," he said. "We anticipate that there will be disruption of the CDL skills testing process at some point in February."
Since the ELDT standardizes how beginner truck drivers can receive training, Sanders said "we are gearing up for record classes this year. We’ve been preparing for over a year and are ready to go Feb. 7. Preparing included not only making sure our curriculum and processes were in order, but also ensuring we had the instructors needed to meet demand."
Sanders noted that MTC, which he said had most components in place for the ELDT timeline already, "it was just a matter of streamlining and reorganizing some processes" – has already seen a boost in enrollment thanks to the attention trucking has received throughout the pandemic.
"Truck drivers and their importance to our supply chain has been a focus of the media for the last two years," Sanders added. "As a result, we have seen an increase in both men and women who want to join the trucking industry."
In anticipation of the ELDT rule, TransForce Group developed an online course in early 2021 and has enrolled more than 21,000 users to-date.
"Our online program is free," he said, "and following completion we help all students find the best behind-the-wheel training for them in their area – whether it is our school or not. We have partnered with hundreds of schools (and growing) to help increase and ease the flow of new drivers entering our industry."