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UPS fails in second shot at bypassing driver-trainer rules

FMCSA denying exemption request due to lack of safety assurances

Federal regulators remain unconvinced that UPS (NYSE: UPS) can maintain safety standards if the company were to be exempted from certain provisions included in new driver-training rules.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for the second time has denied a request by UPS that the company not need to adhere to a requirement that training instructors for its long-haul drivers have two years of experience driving a commercial truck, according to a ruling to be published Tuesday.

FMCSA also denied the company’s request that it not have to separately register each of its training locations in a new driver-training database. The two provisions are part of FMCSA’s Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule that went into effect Feb. 7.

In rejecting the company’s first request, FMCSA ruled in December 2019 that UPS was unable to demonstrate to the agency that the company would “achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be achieved absent the requested exemptions,” a statutory requirement for approving an exemption.

UPS attempted to resolve the issue in a petition for reconsideration filed in July 2020, in which the company reiterated the attributes of its own training program and detailed the difficulties it was experiencing in trying to hire instructors that were in compliance with the new ELDT rule.

“We learned very quickly that many of the applicants lacked basic safety skills in their operation of the vehicle as well as skills required to keep them injury free,” UPS asserted. “It was evident that the skill set was not aligned with our level of acceptance that has produced some of the safest drivers in the industry.”

However, after analyzing the updated petition along with public comments, FMCSA determined that UPS’ application, once again, “lacked evidence that would ensure that an equivalent level of safety or greater would likely be achieved [absent the exemptions].”

Comments mixed on UPS exemption

Both attempts at the ELDT exemptions generated over 100 comments. FMCSA noted that many of those in support of UPS’ second application were from the company’s drivers and current or former driver trainers.

“Most of these commenters cited the excellence of the UPS driver training program and the overall company safety record,” FMCSA acknowledged. “They argued that the UPS training program is one of the most comprehensive in the industry, that its driver trainers are put through an intense training program and are required to follow strict methods and procedures.”

But the two organizations commenting on the reconsideration — the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) — both opposed it as they had done with the company’s initial request.

“We believe the uniform application of the regulation for all training providers should be established and followed by anyone training [student drivers],” CVTA stated. “It is our belief that if granted, the FMCSA would be setting a bad precedent and opening up the floodgates for exemptions from other training providers. Our fear is that the number of exemptions would swallow the [ELDT] rule.”

OOIDA argued that “too many” new drivers are entering trucking without basic skills.

“The ELDT rule sets forth a process for holding training schools and instructors accountable for their performance,” commented OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer. “If these standards are maintained and enforced, highway safety will undoubtedly improve.”

UPS has also requested an FMCSA exemption to allow its driver trainees to operate twin 28-foot trailers while holding only a commercial learner’s permit. That application is still pending.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes UPS (No. 2).

22 Comments

  1. The government is the biggest problem by having to many regulations that put so many small companies out of business that produced everything in the local area. Now supporting the bigger corporations that either import lower grade products or ship cross country adds to the problem of the over congested highway system and as traffic increases to where trucks are now boxed in lanes and unable to quickly change lanes to avoid a road Hazzard or disabled vehicles they cannot because only 1 out of 25 cars will let a truck safely move to avoid Hazzards. Do Not dish out punishment to truck drivers. Automobile driver’s do not understand how difficult it is to stay on schedule with all the traffic increases from people having to travel longer distances to work as our highways are way overdue for expansion and needing to be widened with longer merge ramps because of highway over congestion and extra lanes are needed in congested merging areas. The roads we travel need to be safer with smarter traffic lights that sense a moving truck should keep moving and that would add to vehicle safety. Other driving hazzards like minimum speed 40 you need to open up more lanes when the highway speed is only roll and stop to 15mph. I use to enjoy stopping on the shoulder of the road to get something to eat. For some reason government took those easy stops away and you can’t drive in and park in these little parking lots, so now you maybe driving hungry which is not good either. Let either manufacturer what’s needed on a more local or state level or build some new interstate highways so driver’s can once again see the open road with safer vehicle spacing on the highways. Every truck driver needs to learn. I like my Dad’s way if there are 2 driver’s the wisdom from the more experienced driver will be most effectively passed on to the rookie driver and the rookie drives the empty truck and the vet drives the loaded truck during the driver’s training. Let’s make our roadways friendly again by adding to the highway system and educating the little car drivers to please be more courteous on the roadways.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.