Building consensus

July 8, 2015
Diverse group works together to craft sensible solutions

I know all of you read the news and understand what is being reported. And depending upon which article or website you happen to peruse, which association you may belong to, or what stance you happen to have when it comes to entry-level driver training, you have seen just about every angle reported regarding the process to craft rules that work for every stakeholder.  Truth be told, I am certain that everyone can agree that 26 different people in a room, each with their own interests, coming to a consensus is nothing short of a miracle. No, not a “Miracle on 34th Street” or even a “Miracle on the Hudson,”  but rather one that happened right here in Washington, DC, as a group of 26 crafted recommendations on the entry-level driver training negotiated rulemaking.

When this process began, many thought it would be an uphill battle on every front.  Putting 26 people in a room,  many of whom have spent a lifetime advocating certain issues in which the other side had spent their lifetime opposing, well, is not such a good idea.  The common thought would be that a consensus could not be reached, that it couldn’t get done, and that quite possibly, we were putting on the very shoes that FMCSA wore every day in trying to develop a rule that would please everyone.  Are the final recommendations that were reached via consensus hours-based? Yes. But are they also performance-based? Yes. 

I think everyone can agree that we, meaning the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee, represented this industry in the best way we knew how, and that we all supported the efforts to create a more thoroughly trained and safer operator of commercial motor vehicles on our highways.  In short, coming to a consensus on an issue is a process in which the result is not agreed upon by everyone, but rather accepted by the majority.

Quite obviously, most of the people believed that creating a rule on training entry-level truck drivers with a behind-the-wheel component must contain a little bit of both, a hybrid if you will.

That hybrid, of course, allows for the development of an operator, an ambassador, or an employee—everything that we as an industry would like best represented when we use the term driver. We speak of a hybrid because it allows ample time for a driver of any skill level to reflect the knowledge that they learn to be best represented on both a range as well as a road.

The end result is a recommendation that truly comes from a group of people that in the beginning had doubts about whether or not a consensus could be reached.  Honestly, the real message that lies within this negotiated rulemaking is the negotiation itself.  The parties involved, most often representing opposite ends of the trucking spectrum, came together to develop a sensible recommendation that can work for this industry.

When it comes to the development of a rule pertaining to behind-the-wheel training, those of us involved in the rulemaking process know that this has been merely another in a long line of steps regarding entry-level driver training. It’s also a step in the right direction.

David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn.  He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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