FMCSA rule addresses entry-level commercial vehicle driver training

A FINAL rule has been published for minimum training requirements for entry-level truck drivers, according to information in the Federal Register May 21. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule (49 CFR Part 380) has set standards for mandatory training requirements on four specific topics for entry-level drivers: qualification requirements; hours of service; wellness; and whistle-blower protection.

The rule becomes effective July 20, 2004. Employees are given a 90-day grace period to comply.

Each employer must ensure that each entry-level driver who first began operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce requiring a commercial driver license (CDL) between July 20, 2003, and October 18, 2004, has had the required training no later than October 18, 2004.

Here are some highlights from the rule:

  • The final rule is applicable to all persons subject to the CDL requirements. It will include all trucks or combinations of motor vehicles used in interstate commerce to transport property if the motor vehicle has a gross combination weight rating of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more) inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds).

    Or if the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating of 11,794 or more kilograms (26,001 pounds or more).

    Or if the vehicle is of any size and is used in the transportation of any material that has been designated as hazardous and is required to be placarded, or any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin.

  • FMCSA changes the definition of entry-level driver to a driver with less than one-year experience operating CMVs. The agency believes safety will continue to be served by allowing only one year of experience rather than two years of experience.

  • FMCSA has determined that drivers that began driving CMVs within 10 months before the May 21 final rule and two months after the final rule will be considered currently employed drivers subject to the 90-day grace period. These drivers are permitted to operate a CMV during the 90-day period pending the completion of training. The agency also believes that employers can train these entry-level drivers in shifts.

  • Although the proposal does not specify a required number of hours for the training, the agency estimates that an employer or other training provider would need to devote about 10 hours to driver training to meet rule requirements.

  • Employers are allowed to provide the required training in a range of settings. Various entities can provide the training, including the employer, a training school, or a class conducted by consortia or associations of employers.

  • FMCSA agrees that fatigue management should be a part of hours-of-service training. The other subjects would include the hours a driver is allowed to drive and work each shift; the mandatory off-duty times between shift periods; record of duty status preparation and filing; and exceptions to the rules.

  • The training provider would not have to issue the entry-level driver a separate training certificate. However, the training school's certificate or diploma given to the driver must have wording that is substantially in accordance with the wording of the training certificate contained in the final rule.

  • FMCSA believes most employers will bear the training costs for currently employed entry-level drivers. Most entry-level drivers, however, will probably bear most of the training costs after October 18, 2004, because the FMCSA believes most employers will not hire a driver unless the entry-level driver has had the training by a third party training provider's school.

  • The training certificate now contains the name, address, and telephone number of the training provider. An employer can accept a copy of a training certificate from a previous employer or other training provider. The certificate or diploma must then be maintained in the driver's personnel or qualification file as long as the employer employs the driver and for one year thereafter.

  • Compliance will be checked at the carrier's place of business during a compliance review. Because the requirement is not a driver licensing issue to be administered by the state licensing agency, enforcement officials will not check for compliance at roadside.

To see the rule in its entirety in The Federal Register, go to the Internet at access.gpo.gov, scroll to the bottom of the page, and under “executive resources” click on the “Federal Register” button. The rule is under the May 21, 2004, entries.

Bill would give incentives to cut engine idling

Legislation introduced by Rep Kay Granger (R-TX) would provide financial incentives to encourage the trucking industry to reduce engine idling.

Called the Idling Reduction Tax Credit Act of 2004, the bill would offer truckers federal income tax credits to buy alternative power source devices and switch to the device for power when a truck is stopped rather than running a truck's engine.

This bill would permit a tax credit of up to $3,500 for each truck outfitted with equipment termed “idling reduction devices.” These units power cabin heating or cooling systems and trailer refrigeration units normally handled by the truck's main engine. The tax credit would pay for about half of the device's cost.

As part of the legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of Energy would certify which alternative idle power devices meet appropriate standards to qualify for the tax credit.

The goal of Granger's legislation is endorsed by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, said, “Given the constant financial pressures on trucking companies to comply with costly federal equipment mandates, a tax credit for new stationary power sources makes a lot of sense and should help encourage their use.”

About 15.5 million trucks operate in the United States, and 1.9 million classified as tractor-trailer trucks will benefit the most from such tax credits, according to experts. Trucking accounts for about 12.8% of the motor fuel sold in the nation.

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