Federal rule to set training standards for entry-level semitrailer drivers

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 65 views 

A proposed federal rule requiring entry-level semitrailer drivers to complete a specific number of training hours is strongly supported by the owner of a driving school in Springdale.

“My emotions are pretty strong on this issue,” said Doug Carter, owner of Mid-America Truck Driving School at Northwest Technical Institute. “I definitely want to go on record as a proponent.”

The proposed rule would require those seeking a Class A commercial driver’s license to first complete at least 30 hours of road training and 10 hours of training on a course. The rule wouldn’t have an hours requirement for classroom instruction.

Carter said his driving school exceeds the standards that would be set in the rule, which is also supported by the trade organization American Trucking Associations.

While the Arkansas Trucking Association hasn’t taken an official position on the rule, David O’Neal, director of safety services for the organization, said American Trucking Associations wanted “something a little more robust” in the rule.

According to Transport Topics, a publication of American Trucking Associations, it “strongly prefers a performance-based strategy for behind-the-wheel training rather than one that merely requires drivers to spend a specified amount of time behind the wheel of a big rig without requiring demonstrated competence.”

Also, O’Neal said he’s not aware of any research showing the behind-the-wheel time leads to a reduction in crashes.

But the rule would set a standard for training.

Depending on how much of the proposed rule goes into effect, “I’m all for improving highway safety,” Carter said.

He also expects it would impact the trucking industry favorably and compared it to the rule restricting the number of hours drivers can spend driving daily, saying “it leveled the playing field” between carriers and didn’t reduce productivity.

Under the proposed rule, driving schools such as Carter’s would have three years to adjust to its requirements, but he said he doesn’t anticipate the school would need to change anything as a result of the rule.

Annually, between 80 and 90 students, complete the five-week training program at the school, which is a state-certified CDL testing site, he said. Cost for the program is $4,000, but a $300 scholarship is available through a partnership with the University of Arkansas Global Campus and NTI.

Now, that the proposed rule has cleared the White House Office of Management and Budget, the next step is for it to be published in the Federal Register.

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