In four months, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) entry-level driver-training (ELDT) final rule will take effect, setting a new federal standard for mandatory training of entry-level drivers and establishing minimum requirements for entry-level driver-training providers.
The standards will apply to all those seeking commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and will impose both theory and behind-the-wheel training requirements. While neither requirement mandates a minimum number of hours that the driver trainee must complete, individuals must receive a score of at least 80% on their theory assessment and proficiently demonstrate all required behind-the-wheel skills before the training provider can issue the training certificate required to obtain a CDL. The rule also established the need for the Training Provider Registry (TPR), an FMCSA web system that will contain the official list of all entities that register with FMCSA and self-certify that they meet the requirements for being an entry-level driver-training provider. The TPR also will retain a record of drivers who have successfully completed entry-level driver training for states to access.
The effective date of the ELDT rule was delayed two years due to complications developing the TPR, but FMCSA is now encouraging ELDT providers to begin registering via the TPR in order to be included on the public list of training providers that will go live later this year. As a reminder, beginning February 7, 2022, CDL applicants must complete their
entry-level driver training from a training provider listed in the TPR to be eligible to take the required CDL skills or knowledge tests.
Which entities can apply?
A number of different entities can apply to be listed on the TPR, including training schools, educational institutions, rural electric cooperatives, motor carriers, state and local governments, school districts, joint labor-management programs and owner-operators. For tree care companies planning to provide entry-level driver training under the new rule, they must register and self-certify that they meet all of the following FMCSA requirements set forth in 49 CFR § 380.703:
Follow a curriculum that meets the applicable criteria in Appendices A-E of Part 380;
- Utilize facilities meeting the criteria in § 380.709;
- Utilize vehicles meeting the criteria in § 380.711;
- Utilize instructors meeting the criteria in § 380.713;
- Meet recordkeeping requirements in § 380.725; and
Be licensed, certified, registered or authorized to provide training in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations of any state where in-person training is conducted.
Eligible providers may provide training either on a “for-hire” or “not-for-hire” basis. Any training provider meeting the eligibility requirements could be qualified to provide entry-level driver training, regardless of whether they fall within a category specifically identified in the regulations.
To assist in signup, FMCSA has created a TPR webpage that includes a browsable section of frequently asked questions covering general topics about the ELDT rule as well as more intricate topics on training requirements and curricula. FMCSA also released an interactive Q&A covering topics such as self-certification, registration, state requirements and more at the end of August 2021. Recordings of webinars and fact sheets and an overview of the final ELDT rule also are available to assist with compliance.
While it may seem like some time before these regulations take effect, February 7, 2022, will be here before you know it. And, given the current shortage of CDL drivers, companies should begin preparing now to ensure they are not caught flat-footed. FMCSA promises to continue pushing out updates ahead of the February compliance date, and it is advisable that companies sign up for email alerts on future compliance tolls the agency will release.
Basil Thomson is a senior associate with Ulman Public Policy, TCIA’s Washington, D.C.-based advocacy and lobbying partner.
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