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The trucking industry’s Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule, which was set to begin on Feb. 7, 2020, is expected to be delayed by up to two years. When implemented, the ELDT rule will establish new minimum training requirements for people who want to obtain or upgrade a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or obtain passenger, school bus or hazardous materials endorsements.

In July, the FMCSA proposed a two-year partial delay in the ELDT compliance deadline due to an information system glitch. Specifically, the partial delay would have impacted training providers’ responsibility to upload driver-specific training information onto the Training Provider Register. It would have also delayed the date that state driver licensing agencies need to start confirming that CDL applicants were compliant with ELDT requirements before taking knowledge or skills tests. With the newest delay announcement, however, the entire rule will be postponed by a period of up to two years. The FMCSA is expected to release a formal notice announcing the delay before the end of the year, a decision that an anonymous Department of Transportation official attributed to “the failures of the states aligning their systems with the federal system.”

What will the ELDT Rule Do?

In general, entry-level drivers will be required to complete a knowledge-based theory program and behind-the-wheel instruction course. Training can only be provided by entities that are listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s (FMCSA’s) Trainer Provider Registry. Training providers must meet a number of requirements, including using instructors who have had a valid commercial driver’s license for at least two years, and can include entities such as motor carriers, school districts, owner-operators and training schools.

Individuals who obtain commercial learner’s permits (CLPs) will be required to comply with the new ELDT rule. Those who already have commercial learner’s permits will not be required to comply with the ELDT rule as long as they obtain their commercial driver’s license or endorsement before their permit expires. Drivers will need to demonstrate proficiency in behind-the-wheel instruction on a range and public roads, as well as theory instruction, before being able to obtain licenses or endorsements. Specific requirements for CDL applications differ on a state-by-state basis: in Ohio, obtaining a CDP involves skills tests that consist of pre-trip inspections, maneuverability test and a road test.

A Delay Could Compromise Road Safety

Commercial Vehicle Training Association President Don Lefeve noted that the delay means “there are still a lot of substandard programs that will remain in existence… the reality is there’s going to be no formal requirement for training.” As a result, the public won’t get to reap the road safety improvements that new training requirements will likely bring.

Inexperienced, inadequately trained drivers are more likely to cause accidents than experienced CDL holders. In fact, a U.S. Department of Transportation report found that truckers with less than five years of experience are 41% more likely to cause a traffic crash than drivers with at least five years of experience. Driving large commercial vehicles requires specialized knowledge and understanding of handling different kinds of trucks, brakes, transmissions and navigating adverse situations like heavy traffic or poor weather. When the rule does eventually get implemented, training providers will need to strive for top-quality training to best prepare CDL holders to stay safe – and keep others safe – on the road.

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