WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new final rule establishes national minimum training standards for entry-level commercial bus and truck operators.
The regulation from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) applies to drivers seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or certain endorsements, including a school bus endorsement.
The final rule, which has a compliance date of Feb. 7, 2020, follows a notice of proposed rulemaking that FMCSA issued in March in response to a congressional mandate from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.
According to FMCSA, the new standards established in the final rule “address the knowledge and skills necessary for the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles.” They also establish minimum qualifications for entities and individuals who provide entry-level driver training.
“Ensuring that drivers are properly trained is a critical element in improving road safety for everyone,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Wednesday. “The entry-level training standards for large truck and bus operators put forth today exemplify a commitment to safety from a broad coalition of commercial motor vehicle stakeholders.”
The entry-level driver training final rule reportedly retains many of the consensus recommendations of a negotiated rulemaking committee that was composed of 25 stakeholders and FMCSA representatives.
Those stakeholders included representatives from the National School Transportation Association and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. Multiple subcommittees were formed, including one that addressed school bus endorsement curriculum.
Under the final rule, applicants seeking a CDL will be required to demonstrate proficiency in knowledge and behind-the-wheel training on a driving range and on a public road, with training obtained from an instructional program that meets FMCSA standards.
There is no required minimum number of hours for the knowledge or behind-the-wheel portions of any of the individual training curricula, but training providers must determine that each CDL applicant demonstrates proficiency in all required elements of the training in order to complete the program.
The new standards apply nationwide to first-time Class A and Class B CDL applicants and to current CDL holders seeking a license upgrade (e.g., a Class B CDL holder seeking a Class A CDL) or an additional endorsement to transport hazardous materials or to operate a motorcoach or school bus.
FMCSA said it anticipates that many entities that are currently providing entry-level driver training — including motor carriers, school districts, independent training schools, and individuals — will be eligible to provide training that complies with the new requirements.