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STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN ON RELEASE OF FINAL RULE FOR ENTRY-LEVEL DRIVER TRAINING

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

ON RELEASE OF FINAL RULE FOR ENTRY-LEVEL DRIVER TRAINING

ARLINGTON, VA (December 7, 2016) – The Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers, many of whom are families of truck crash victims and survivors, are extremely disappointed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for releasing such a weak final rule requiring entry-level driver training for commercial motor vehicle drivers. 

After languishing for 25 years following a mandate from Congress, we were hopeful that the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), comprised of law enforcement, safety advocates, and industry, would be able to produce a negotiated rulemaking that included a minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours. After several meetings throughout the past year, a proposed rule was negotiated that included both a theoretical curriculum and a 30-hour minimum of BTW training. Unfortunately, the years of waiting and the participation of the ELDTAC committee has been a waste. The final rule does not mandate a minimum number of BTW training hours, severely blunting the potential safety benefits of it. 

Without a minimum BTW training hours requirement, the agency will not be able to ensure that commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants have had actual time behind-the-wheel to learn safe operations of a truck. Requiring a set number of hours to ensure that a licensee is sufficiently educated in his or her profession is common for far less deadly and injurious jobs, such as barbers and real estate salespersons. Even other transportation-related professions, like pilots, are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to complete more than 250 hours of flight time – their version of BTW training. Unfortunately, the FMCSA opted for a Pyrrhic victory that allowed them to check the box for finalizing one of their many unfinished, overdue, and much-needed rulemakings instead of producing a final rule that would do as their mission states: “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”

Given the overlap between trucking companies and training programs, and an industry turnover rate above 90 percent, the FMCSA is naïve to think that a BTW training standard based solely on a driver-trainee’s ‘proficiency’ will result in needed training and practice behind the wheel. The driver-trainees will be forced to complete BTW training at the pace of the training school they attend or the trucking company that runs it, which can lead to CDL mills.

The FMCSA’s latest attempt to produce an entry-level driver training rule for CMV drivers has been a colossal waste of time. This final rule is both insufficient in terms of advancing safety and an insult to the memories of those killed in crashes caused by inexperienced and untrained truck drivers.

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