A prominent truck safety group warns that regulators’ decision to further delay new training rules for entry-level drivers could increase the number of fatal highway crashes.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), which lobbies on behalf of truck accident victims and their families, blasted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for once again extending the compliance deadline for its Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule. The rule, which establishes new minimum training standards for those applying for a commercial driver’s license (CDL), was supposed to go into effect Feb. 7, 2020, but the FMCSA is pushing back the deadline to 2022.
The decision, announced Nov. 26, came after a “careful review” of public comments, FMCSA stated. “This extension is reflective of the Agency’s continued efforts to develop a secure and effective electronic trainer provider registry for the new rule. The agency remains committed to making the implementation of the rule as efficient and effective as possible.”
But AHAS contends that the extension reflects more a lack of commitment at FMCSA.
“Congress first instructed [regulators] back in 1991 to do a rule on this, so they’ve been working on it for decades and just can’t seem to get it right,” AHAS general counsel Peter Kurdock told FreightWaves.
Kurdock, a member of FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, pointed out that the specific issue that has caused the most recent delays — the inability to correctly transfer electronic training certificates between state and federal IT systems — has been known and supposedly worked on for at least four years.
“When we were going through the rulemaking process in 2015, this problem was identified by virtually every stakeholder as an issue that the agency was going to have to pay particular attention to in order to make sure they could get it done in time and get the rule in place,” Kurdock said.
“There really is no reason this should be delayed any further. If this rule were in place, we’re very hopeful that safety outcomes would improve. There’s a direct concern with public safety when you’re not making sure every truck driver who gets behind the wheel is properly trained. We see the real-world results of the agency’s inaction. Its’ tragic and sad.”
Kurdock pointed to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing fatalities involving large trucks increased in 2018.
The National Safety Council (NSC) agreed it was critical that truck drivers receive proper training. “NSC would like this training to occur without delay, given roadway deaths remain stubbornly high yet 100% preventable,” said NSC spokesperson Maureen Vogel.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has been concerned about the rollout of the ELDT rule since the latest iteration was scheduled to go into effect in 2017. The group has worried that the agency wasn’t “on track” to get the rule in place despite assurances to the contrary from FMCSA.
When the agency proposed in July a partial two-year compliance extension that would apply only to state driver licensing agencies, ATA said delaying parts of the ELDT rule “could have a significant impact on the enforcement and the effectiveness of the rule’s intended goal,” and therefore, along with many state governments, it supported a two-year delay of the entire rule to avoid confusion.
UPS [NYSE: UPS] earlier this year applied for an exemption from two requirements of the ELDT rule claiming that they would affect its ability to train its drivers and hurt its long-haul driver hiring, but the exemption has not yet been granted.