Almost two years ago, this column addressed the benefits of being a Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) trained driver and the advantages to carriers that hired them. The idea behind the column was that fleets should look no further than a PTDI-certified course as it has minimum standards that aid in creating the safest drivers on our roadways. That being said, it would appear that the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may have read that same column. The agency has recently invited representatives of PTDI to deliver a presentation highlighting the standards and practices of the Professional Truck Driver Institute and its curriculum. Five years after the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding entry-level driver training appeared in the Federal Register, it seems that the efforts of creating a national standard for entry-level drivers is back on the front burner.
MAP-21, the recently passed surface transportation bill, included language on entry-level driver training and the need for FMCSA to actually put forth a rulemaking on this issue. PTDI and its presentation at the MCSAC meeting is a strong indication that the agency is moving in the right direction by actually asking the people who provide the training to offer information to the agency for potential formulation of a rule. Finally, our industry may actually develop an entry-level driver rule that makes sense, rather than the burdensome rule that was proposed in 2007.
When it comes to driver training, the end game is and always will be what is most important, and that is creating a well-prepared driver to take on the challenges of our nation’s highways. The standards of training can be argued all day long, but certainly the processes that PTDI has in place to review, audit and evaluate the courses that schools offer should be duplicated when a final rule is promulgated. The nature of PTDI—dotting every i and crossing every t—is to be sure that its standards and criteria are being met. This holds painstakingly true by on-site evaluations at every school that boasts a PTDI-certified course in what seems like endless amounts of reports filed and reviewed by PTDI certification commissioners. In other words, a PTDI certification is something that is earned and should never be taken lightly, and PTDI goes to great lengths to ensure that.
These same processes should be strongly considered by FMCSA when the entry-level driver training rule is put forth. If you are going to mandate training, the agency might as well mandate it the right way. It needs to make sure that every school is teaching the right things, rather than just pushing students through a course so they can pass a CDL test. The agency has long touted the need to eliminate the chameleon carriers on our roadways, and the same dedication should be put forth when addressing the industry CDL mills.
Efforts should be made to focus on the quality of training rather than on the numbers of students who walk through the doors. If FMCSA focuses on an institution’s training and the processes that surround that training, the ability to create a safe and sound driver who can adapt to the challenges on our highways will quickly follow as a result.