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UPS gets driver-training exemption for double trailers

5-year waiver issued by FMCSA supports carrier’s ‘hire from within’ policy

Exemption nets UPS new flexibility for training drivers in doubles. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves).

Truck drivers who want to take on double trailers at UPS (NYSE: UPS) will likely see a faster route to the job thanks to a new training exemption from federal regulators.

The five-year exemption, which applies only to UPS, allows the company to provide behind-the-wheel training in twin 28-foot trailers — known as doubles — for candidates holding a learner’s permit, rather than having to wait until the trainees get their CDL as required by federal law.

In approving the exemption, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determined that it “will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption,” the agency stated in a notice to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

Boost to UPS hiring pipeline

UPS also sees the relaxed training restriction supporting its “hire from within” culture, as the company explained when it applied for the exemption in January 2019.

“[UPS’] long-haul driver candidates typically come from the ranks of UPS associates who operate commercial motor vehicles that do not require a commercial driver’s license (i.e., package vans) and, therefore, are experienced drivers,” UPS stated in its application.

“If the exemption is not granted, UPS would continue to provide driver trainees with classroom training on doubles, but would continue to be unable to provide on-road skills training during the initial training period. Only after drivers obtain CDLs with doubles/triples endorsements would they be permitted to operate doubles, complicating training and operational schedules.


“Moreover, UPS is committed to helping drivers advance in their careers. The exemption will ultimately make for a smoother and safer transition to tractor trailer driving for those UPS associates who express an interest in being promoted to such a role. Absent the incentive, UPS associates could be discouraged from pursuing these opportunities.”

UPS, which operated approximately 20,000 long-haul trucks and employed about 26,000 long-haul drivers at the time of its application, estimated the exemption would apply to 1,000 driver trainees per year.

FMCSA responds to opposition

Of the 38 comments filed on UPS’ application, 20 supported it, FMCSA noted, pointing out that the premise of some opposing it is that learner’s permit holders lack experience driving a single trailer, so they should not be able to operate a double trailer until they receive their CDL.

“The CDL regulations, however, do not specify a minimum amount of time an individual must hold a Class A CDL prior to seeking the double/triple trailer endorsement and do not require training or passing a double/triple trailer skills test prior to receiving the double/triple trailer endorsement,” FMCSA stated. “Individuals with a valid Class A CDL seeking such an endorsement need only pass a knowledge test. The measures proposed by UPS would ensure that drivers receive on-road skills training prior to receiving the double/triple trailer endorsement.”

FMCSA said it had conducted a comprehensive review of UPS’ safety performance prior to granting the exemption, which included checking safety records and inspection and accident reports from state agencies. The agency also affirmed that UPS maintains minimum required levels of financial responsibility, is not subject to out-of-service orders and has a “satisfactory” safety rating.

FMCSA’s exemption approval comes just weeks after the agency denied a different driver-training exemption requested by the company related to training instructors.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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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.