WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn a 2007 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would have required additional training for entry-level operators of commercial vehicles — including school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In a notice from the FMCSA on Thursday, the agency said that it has withdrawn the proposal “because commenters to the NPRM, and participants in the agency’s 2013 public listening sessions, raised substantive issues which have led the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.