FMCSA’s proposal addresses prerequisite training for entry-level drivers of commercial vehicles, including school buses. Photo courtesy Orange USD

FMCSA’s proposal addresses prerequisite training for entry-level drivers of commercial vehicles, including school buses. Photo courtesy Orange USD

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Friday proposed national prerequisite training standards for entry-level drivers of commercial vehicles, including school buses.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) reflects consensus recommendations of a negotiated rulemaking committee composed of FMCSA representatives and 25 stakeholders.

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.

FMCSA’s proposed rulemaking responds to a congressional mandate from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Public comment is sought as the next phase of the rulemaking.

“Well-trained drivers are safer drivers, which leads to greater safety for our families and friends on our highways and roads,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “With the help of our partners, today’s proposal serves as a major step towards ensuring that commercial vehicle drivers receive the necessary training required to safely operate a large truck or motorcoach.”

Under the NPRM, applicants seeking a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) — necessary for operating a combination tractor-trailer type vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds or more — would have to undergo at least 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training from an instructional program that meets FMCSA standards, including at least 10 hours of operating the vehicle on a practice driving range.

Applicants seeking a Class B CDL — necessary for operating a heavy straight truck or a school bus, transit bus or motorcoach — would need at least 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training, including at least seven hours of practice range training.

There is no proposed minimum number of hours that driver trainees must spend on the classroom portions of any of the individual curricula.

“A diverse group of commercial motor vehicle stakeholders completed a tremendous amount of work, and that effort resulted in an unprecedented consensus,” FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling said. “These comprehensive entry-level driver training standards exemplify our commitment to working closely with our safety partners ... to reduce crashes and to save lives.”

Mandatory, comprehensive training in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories would apply to the following individuals under the proposal:

• first-time CDL applicants;
• current CDL holders seeking a license upgrade (e.g., a Class B CDL holder seeking a Class A CDL) or an additional endorsement (for example, to operate a school bus); and
• a previously disqualified CDL holder seeking to reacquire a license.

Those individuals would be subject to the proposed entry-level driver training requirements and would have to complete a course of instruction provided by an entity that:

• meets the minimum qualifications for training providers;
• covers the curriculum;
• is listed on FMCSA’s proposed Training Provider Registry; and
• submits electronically to FMCSA the training certificate for each individual who completes the training.

For answers to frequently asked questions about the entry-level driver training NPRM, go here.

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