New Entry-Level Driver Training Rules

On May 21, 2004, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued its final rule on Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level Commercial Vehicle Drivers. The final rule establishes minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers in four areas that are not covered on existing CDL tests.

The rule applies to all drivers who hold a CDL and drive in interstate commerce. Thus, the rule applies to all privately operated motor vehicles or trucks with a gross combination weight or gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or vehicles of any size that are used to transport a hazardous material.

The new rule defines “entry-level driver” as “a driver with less than one year of experience operating a CMV with a CDL in interstate commerce.”

Driver Qualification
The rule requires training regarding “the federal rules on medical certification, medical examination procedures, general qualifications, responsibilities and disqualifications based on various offenses, orders and loss of driving privileges (part 391, subparts B and E of this subchapter). The preamble lists a number of medical topics to be covered as part of this training, including diabetic conditions, psychiatric disorders, vision and hearing standards and diagnosis of alcoholism as a disease.

Hours of Service
Training on this subject includes the “limitations on driving hours, the requirement to be off-duty for certain periods of time, record of duty status preparation, exceptions and fatigue countermeasures as a means to avoid crashes.”

Driver Wellness
Training must include “basic health maintenance including diet and exercise” and “the importance of avoiding excessive use of alcohol.” This requirement overlaps the medical topics to be covered under the driver qualification training requirement. The FMCSA believes drivers should receive training in becoming aware of health problems that may adversely affect their driving, such as stress, sleep apnea, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, heart disease and diabetes. This training area does not require drivers to self-disclose personal medical information to anyone, however.

Whistleblower Protection
The training for whistleblower protection includes the “right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer without the employee’s risk of losing a job or being subject to reprisals simply for stating a safety concern.”

Compliance Dates
Section 380.500(a) requires that employers ensure that each entry-level driver receive the required training no later than July 20, 2004, the effective date of the rule. However, entry-level drivers (i.e., drivers with less than one year of experience) who first began operating a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce between July 20, 2003 and October 18, 2004 must be trained no later than October 18, 2004. Thus, drivers who first began operating a CMV ten months before the final rule was issued, and on or before July 20, 2004, have a 90-day grace period in which to be trained. Drivers who first began to drive on July 21, 2004 or later must receive training before operating a CMV.

Employer Requirements and Recordkeeping
Employers must ensure that all entry-level drivers receive the required training and receive the specified training certificate. The training certificate must be kept in the employee’s file for as long as he or she is an employee and for one year thereafter, and must include: (a) the date of certificate issuance, (b) name of training provider, (c) mailing address of training provider, (d) name of driver, (e) a statement that the driver completed the required training (a sample is included in the rule), (f) the printed name of the person attesting that the driver has received the required training, and (g) the signature of the attesting person.

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Meet the Author
GAWDA Government Affairs and Human Resources Legal Consultant Richard P. Schweitzer, Esq., is president of Richard P. Schweitzer, PLLC, in Washington, D.C. Members can reach him at 202-223-3040 and at rpschweitzer@rpslegal.com.