A pending lawsuit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) seeks to do something Congress has failed to do for more than 20 years: force the federal agency to develop and implement new rules for CDL commercial driver training. The lawsuit, filed by a group that includes safety advocates and the Teamsters union, is directed mainly at what one of the plaintiffs refers to as “fly-by-night” CDL schools and “diploma mills” that put drivers on the road after just 10 hours of classroom instruction.
Congress agreed back in 1993 that driver safety was of paramount importance in order to keep the highways safe for everyone. They ordered the Transportation Department to develop some sort of federal standard for driver training. What was the result? Rules implemented 10 years later that require only passage of a written test and 10 hours of training before a driver is cleared to take to the road. That did not sit well with a federal court, which determined the rules were insufficient.
In 2012, Congress again tried to force Transportation to do something by way of language contained in the MAP-21 legislation. Yet still, neither the department nor the FMCSA have shown a willingness to comply with the law.
Industry Standard Training
Despite the lawsuit and its complaints against the federal government, the industry standard for training CDL drivers goes well beyond the federal regulations. For example, companies such as our training partner, Premier Truck Driving Schools, put students through a rigorous weeks-long training program that includes:
- classroom instruction
- on-truck training
- over-the-road training.
Neither C.R. England nor our training partner is comfortable with CDL schools that put drivers on the road with only limited classroom instruction. We emphasize driver safety as the number one priority when sitting behind the wheel. It is more important than nearly every other aspect of the truck-driving job.
Producing Safe Drivers
From our perspective, a quality driver-training program produces safe drivers that are also productive drivers. Schools emphasizing safety will work with drivers on a number of important areas including:
- Vehicle Inspections – Truck drivers are already required to complete a safety inspection of their vehicles prior to every trip. Proper training teaches drivers to look beyond a standard list of items in order to identify less obvious things that could pose safety problems.
- Size & Weight – The disparity between the size and weight of trucks compared to passenger vehicles is that which poses the greatest danger in a road crash. Drivers need to be trained to compensate for size and weight disparities and how these affect speed, braking, handling, etc.
- Driver Fatigue – The fatigue factor among truck drivers is well known. Suffice it to say that truck driving is not without its physical demands. That said, drivers need to be instructed about fatigue and how it relates to safety. They must be constantly reminded to get enough rest between shifts.
At C.R. England, we emphasize driver safety at all times. As one of the nation’s leading motor carriers, we know that our industry owes it to the driving public to put only the safest drivers behind the wheel. That is one of the many reasons we partner with Premier to provide high-quality training to our drivers. As for the pending lawsuit against the FMCSA, there is no way to predict the outcome.