After the FMCSA dropped the minimum behind-the-wheel driving hours requirement from the final entry-level driver training rule, the industry registered its surprise. Now however, safety advocates and industry groups are hitting back, demanding that the FMCSA add minimum BTW requirements back in.
In each iteration of the proposed rule up until the final rule was published, new drivers were required to spend at least a small number of hours behind the wheel before they were eligible to earn their CDL. That requirement was removed entirely from the final rule.
Driver and safety groups claim that losing the minimum BTW requirements will allow unprepared, undertrained, and unsafe drivers on the road.
The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways all signed a letter to the FMCSA, petitioning them to reinstate the BTW hours minimum.
According to the petitioners, passing a skills test where a driver has to demonstrate their ability to do specific tasks does not prove that they’re ready to safely operate a truck in real-world situations.
The petitioners point out that the driver training rule was supposed to ensure that new drivers actually have the skills to operate safely, but “instead, the Final Rule does nothing more than ensure that future CDL candidates will acquire only the most rudimentary skill set needed to pass the most basic of maneuvering tests, as has always been the case…”
Carrier advocacy groups like the ATA voiced their approval of removing behind-the-wheel training requirements. The ATA called the change “a victory for common sense,” claiming that not every driver needs to spend the same amount of time learning how to drive.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer weighed in on the issue with Heavy Duty Trucking saying “It’s absurd that the required amount of hours behind the wheel training is zero. Hairdressers and barbers have a minimum. Pilots have a minimum. It’s totally insulting to professional truckers that have dedicated their lives to driving safely and sharing the highways with others.”