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September 19, 2013  |   Comments (3)   |   Post a comment

FMCSA withdraws training proposal for commercial vehicle drivers

By Kelly Roher


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn a 2007 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would have required additional training for entry-level operators of commercial vehicles — including school buses — who cross state lines.

Pupil transportation industry officials, including those from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) and the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), had expressed concerns about the proposed rulemaking after it was introduced.

In 2008, NASDPTS said that the rulemaking would significantly increase transportation costs for school districts and exacerbate driver shortages, and the association requested that school bus drivers be exempted from the proposal.

In making its case, NASDPTS cited the superior safety record of the pupil transportation industry, particularly in interstate travel.

“Going back at least 15 years, we can identify only one fatal school bus crash in interstate transportation,” NASDPTS wrote in a comment on the NPRM. “The NPRM does not identify any school bus-specific driver training or interstate safety concerns.”

NSTA also cited the financial impact that the NPRM would have had on the school bus industry in expressing its opposition to the NPRM. The association estimated that the financial impact would have been $88,408,800 in the first year.

In a notice from the FMCSA on Thursday, the agency said that it has withdrawn the proposal “because commenters to the NPRM, and participants in the agency’s 2013 public listening sessions, raised substantive issues which have led the agency to conclude that it would be inappropriate to move forward with a final rule based on the proposal.”  

FMCSA also said that it is conducting two research projects to gather supporting information on the effectiveness of entry-level driver training standards.

The first study will randomly sample CDL holders who received their license in the last three years and were identified as recently employed as a commercial motor vehicle driver using information from the Motor Carrier Management Information System and the Commercial Driver License Information System. The drivers’ safety performance data from these two systems will be analyzed against the type and amount of training they received.   

The second study will gather information from various sources to identify the relationship of training to safety performance. The sources include: carriers; CDL training schools; and state driver’s license agency records. This study will also examine the safety performance of drivers in two states that have regulations dealing with different aspects of CDL driver training.  

A new rulemaking will be based on the results of those studies.

“We are grateful that FMCSA has taken the opportunity for a more thorough research process on this regulation,” NSTA President Tim Flood said. “The financial and procedural consequences of this regulation on the school transportation industry are significant, and a thoughtful approach is in the best interests of all. Safety is without a doubt our top priority, but we must consider every change to current regulations carefully. FMCSA has made the right decision.”

NASDPTS Executive Director Bob Riley added he was “pleased … that FMCSA has responded to our concerns,” and he said that FMCSA has agreed to attend the upcoming NASDPTS conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., to present an update on FMCSA rulemakings and to address its decision-making process regarding the NPRM withdrawal.

The withdrawal notice from the FMCSA is available here.

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Read more about: FMCSA, NASDPTS, NSTA

Also: If you really want to improve safety training of school bus drivers then come up with common sense approaches. For example: Drivers usually fall into bad habits; following too closely to avoid an accident, speeding and distracted driving. Inform your drivers up front that you do seek the local law enforcement agencies help. You expect drivers to be reported by phone to your office should they be observed speeding or following too closely along with the possibility of those drivers being pulled over and given traffic tickets. If your drivers cannot police themselves them encourage the police to help you in whatever way possible. In other words - address your local problems - locally. The industry may suffer driver shortages in some areas yet no school system can afford to lower their standards and continue to allow drivers to develop bad driving habits. Really, for the most part, the majority of school bus drivers do an excellant job. You'll always have a few who have bad habits. Weed them out or retrain them with a probationary policy your school system should already have developed. By the way- you only send your best drivers on out-of-state field trips. Why would you not? Dan - Indiana

Dan Luttrell    |    Sep 20, 2013 09:06 AM

People use to drive big farm trucks and have a school bus route as well. Those days are about gone. People today are driving school buses who may have never driven anything bigger than their family car. People today also have electronic devices that distract their attention of safely opperating their commercial vehicle they were hired to drive. The fact that the commercial vehicle size, weight and total passengers has a requirement for commercial drivers licenses is a safety improvement when it was introduced for school bus drivers. Not to mention the drug and alcohol abuse that people subject themselves to by their bad personal choices to do drugs and alcohol. So having the requirement to expect school bus drivers to maintain a Commercial Drivers License is not all together a bad requirement. The Federal requirements always puts the burden upon the States to cover the expenses and administration processes associated with any "New" requirements of rulemaking. What I have always asked for in the past was to maintain the high standards we already have in place for school bus drivers. Let the State level administration of federally required CDL drivers along with the State's Department of Education Transportation work together in providing safety training programs that pin-points specific problems the local area drivers really need to be educated upon. Stop the constant reinventing of the wheel.

Dan Luttrell    |    Sep 20, 2013 08:54 AM

Dumping the CDL requirement to drive single frame school buses, while maintaining the 'S' endorsement, air brakes, passenger endorsement, medical endorsement, background checks, and other training and activities as relevant to the school bus drivers could help resolve a multitude of issues, including the school bus driver shortage, in my opinion. Amazes me that the CDL requirement for school bus drivers has not been removed.

jkraemer    |    Sep 19, 2013 02:53 PM

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