So much for teamwork and letting “stakeholders” collaborate to develop a trucking regulation. Four members of the advisory committee that drafted the recently published Entry-Level Driver Training Rule have petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider, citing “numerous reasons why major aspects of the Final Rule are not in the public interest.”
The petition, posted Dec. 27, was filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), a long-time advocate for a federal training standard, along with the Truck Safety Coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.
They state that the advisory committee (ELDTAC) had reached a consensus that included a requirement for a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel (BTW) instruction as part of the CDL curriculum, and their petition also quotes FMCSA’s own support for the BTW hours requirement in the rule as it was initially proposed.
That requirement, however, was removed in the final version.
As the petition notes, the “so-called” federal performance standards now require “no BTW training at all,” and therefore amount to “exactly the same bar” that the skills test administered by state licensing agencies requires. Namely, drivers who can handle a tractor-trailer in a parking lot can pass the test with no “real-world,” on-highway training. And, instead of objective standards, the final rule leaves determination of whether a student has demonstrated the required skills proficiency “entirely in the hands of the instructor.”
“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, while depriving both future CDL applicants, and the travelling public of, developing better trained, more skilled novice CMV drivers,” the petition says.
The petition also rejects the final rule’s position that the BTW hours training minimums are burdensome, and would therefore violate federal rulemaking procedures and the will of Congress.
“In this case, the requirement for minimum BTW hours is necessary and not particularly burdensome,” the petition says, and it goes on to discount FMCSA’s position that there is no data supporting a link between training hours and crash reduction.
During the negotiated rulemaking (REGNEG) process, ELDTAC supported the requirement by a 24-2 margin, sufficient to sustain a “consensus” recommendation. Representatives of the American Trucking Assns. and the National Assn. of Small Trucking Cos. cast dissenting votes on the training time minimums, arguing that the hours requirement is unsupported by science and goes against federal performance-focused guidelines. ATA otherwise supported the committee’s range of recommendations.
“ATA has consistently advocated that skills, not simply time spent in a classroom or behind the wheel, should be the deciding factor if a student should be allowed to take a commercial driver’s license test,” said ATA Executive Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan when the final rule was published. “[The rule] is a victory for common sense and for safety.”