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Viewpoint: FMCSA finalizes new training requirements for CDL

If stakeholders cooperate to promote and effectively implement the new ELDT rule, the industry will be better served

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

On Feb. 7, the new Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule will take effect, establishing a single national standard for training commercial vehicle operators for the first time. Prospective drivers who obtain their new or renewed commercial learner’s permit on or after Feb. 7 will now be required to get their training at a federally registered location before they are eligible to test for their commercial driver’s license (CDL) or any additional endorsements. By creating the new minimum training requirements, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) takes a long-anticipated and hard-fought step toward making our roads safer.

The ELDT rule requires programs to teach both theory and behind-the-wheel instruction, with a specific emphasis on teaching the basic operation of a truck, control systems and dashboard instruments, hours of service, etc. Most notably, there is no minimum required hours for either instruction method, but trainees must now pass a written test with a score of 80% or higher.

As of this writing, there are over 10,800 training locations listed in FMCSA’s online Training Provider Registry. The list is available for download on the ELDT website, and the agency will develop an interactive search feature that will be available closer to the ELDT implementation date. The delayed launch of ELDT was partly to allow FMCSA time to build out the necessary system to support the certification and registration process. The enhanced technology should help improve national record-keeping and tracking of CDL applicants. Now, top safety and industry experts will have access to key insights regarding the trends and demographics of new drivers. 

Prior to the ELDT rule, standards for CDL training were regulated by states and varied. While TCA notes that many training programs already meet the new requirements, it is nonetheless beneficial to set a national proficiency minimum that promotes safety and preparedness.

These safety improvements could potentially help reduce the industry’s driver shortage and retention concerns. Increased driver safety and proficiency could improve driver satisfaction and increase career longevity. Currently, the industry is estimated to be around 80,000 drivers short of demand. 

Moving forward, it will be important to monitor potential hurdles. Prospective drivers who cannot afford training school or struggle with English literacy may find it difficult to meet the new requirements. Also, if programs do not take the necessary steps to certify and register, there could be too few locations to meet demand.

TCA encourages all appropriate training programs to certify and register their location(s) with FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry in advance of the Feb/ 7 deadline. We will need to work together to educate and empower prospective drivers to seek training within the new regulatory framework. If federal regulators, training providers, and advocates like TCA cooperate to promote and effectively implement the new ELDT rule, the industry will be better served.