ATA suggests skills-based standard would be better for entry-level driver program

March 9, 2016

American Trucking Associations leaders said they were pleased to see the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed new entry-level driver training requirements but takes issue with one of the required elements. 

“FMCSA has been working toward a strong entry level driver training standard since 1991 and we are pleased that they have released this proposed rule that will raise standards and improve safety,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “This rule does a good job of outlining the knowledge and skills a new driver should have before heading out on the road, but ATA is concerned that an arbitrary requirement centered on behind- the-wheel training hours distracts from a more important focus on performance and safety outcomes.”

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is the result of a negotiated rulemaking that ATA, along with other stakeholder groups, participated in. During that process, ATA repeatedly emphasized that demonstrating the ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle was far more important than the number of hours of instruction or practice a new driver received.

“Some prospective drivers may demonstrate proficiency before reaching an arbitrary minimum hours requirement, but more concerning is the possibility that achieving this time threshold will erroneously convey competence and possession of the skills needed to safely drive,” Graves said.

ATA Chairman Pat Thomas, senior vice-president, state government affairs for UPS, said: “ATA supports FMCSA’s efforts to strengthen the training requirements for entry-level drivers and was pleased to participate in the negotiated rulemaking process on behalf of the trucking industry. While the proposed rule takes important strides toward ensuring that new truck drivers meet minimum training standards, we are hopeful that the final rule will be more focused on performance outcomes.”