Entry-Level Driver Training: Are Fewer Trucking Crashes on the Horizon?

Entry-level driver training requirements scheduled to go into effect in February 2020 may reduce the risk of large truck accidents. This regulation will require new drivers to complete enhanced training prior to operating a large truck. It’s a critical step that could help protect the public as an increasing number of new truck drivers take to the roads as the industry scrambles to fill record shortages.

Entry-Level Driver Training Requirements

The FMCSA published the new rules in 2016 so the trucking industry has had ample time to prepare for the new requirements. The primary purpose of the new rule is to standardize the training new truckers receive. This should help eliminate knowledge gaps within the industry which have the potential to cause serious accidents and injuries.

Under current rules, the DOT requires CDL training centers to provide courses in hours of service regulations, driver qualification/disqualification, health and wellness, as well as whistleblower protections. Beyond these four topics, CDL training centers have broad discretion within their educational curriculum.

Under the new rules, CDL training centers are required to provide 31 specific theory courses in addition to 19 behind-the-wheel skills courses. For individuals to pass their courses and earn their CDL, they must pass 80% of the theory courses and pass all 19 skills courses.

Raising the Bar is Good for Business

The new ELDT requirements are good for the trucking industry and the general public. It will help ensure that truck drivers entering the field have the skills and knowledge required to safely operate large trucks. In turn, this will help prevent costly accidents and protect the public from serious injury and wrongful death that large truck accidents cause.

While some argue that the new rules could result in some schools closing their doors because they are either unable or unwilling to meet the new requirements, these “driver mills” are churning out inexperienced drivers that are unsafe behind the wheel. Opponents to the new rules may be right and the industry may see an increased shortage of drivers in the short-term as old schools close and new schools open their doors. However, the long-term result will be a reenergized workforce propelled forward with a standardized set of skills and knowledge that will make for a safer, smoother, more economical trip every time they get behind the wheel.