February 21, 2018 10:15 AM, EST
Opinion: US Gets Serious About Driver Training

While the electronic logging device mandate has been dominating the headlines, a lesser-known provision enacted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will require that U.S.-based commercial driver license training facilities prove they meet facility, staff and curriculum requirements.

The Entry-Level Driver Training, or ELDT, requirement in the final rule, with a compliance date of February 2020, applies to private and publicly funded CDL training facilities, including for-hire motor carriers and private fleets that provide training to their drivers.



This is a seismic but necessary shift for U.S. CDL schools and carriers. The United States is about 20 years behind most European nations on guidelines that will prepare professional drivers to operate safely and legally.

In other countries, rules already require anyone who wants to train or test amateur commercial vehicle drivers to complete a minimum of 145 hours of training covering foundational knowledge of how adults learn, methods for setting up classrooms and hands-on practice labs and interpersonal communication, including coaching skills. Every two years, trainers must be recertified in an eight-hour course.

The importance of good CDL instructors can’t be underestimated. Courses in adult learning styles and skills, such as interpersonal communication and the ability to provide constructive feedback and to teach problem-solving techniques, are even more essential when working with adults.

A study by Nord University presented at Europe’s CIECA 2017 conference in Norway that tied instructor qualifications and characteristics to retention of professional drivers found that a combination of driver trainer skills, knowledge and behaviors has a high correlation with driver retention. These include competence with technology and with delivering training using a variety of methods. Also deemed important are strong interpersonal skills, the ability to identify areas for improvement and to build rapport with and support learners with constructive feedback and the ability to communicate effectively and to supervise and manage activities of others.

Driver turnover is a problem in many countries. European countries have studied the instructor-trainee experience to better understand what it takes to develop the right trainers who are capable of screening the right people for driving careers and working to help retain them.

There is no U.S. requirement for driver training instructors other than having two years of experience, and, if applicable, that they meet state requirements that are only in place in less than half of all states. Until 2006, when a minimal four-topic curriculum without any skills training or testing requirement was implemented, there were no U.S. driver training standards.

For drivers, the ELDT establishes a 30-topic minimum knowledge course and behind-the-wheel training standards for a Class A or Class B commercial driver license. The rule applies to first-time applicants or CDL holders that are upgrading their license or seeking a hazardous materials, passenger or school bus endorsement for the first time.

The launch of ELDT in the United States will certainly present many challenges in the early stages. As we learn from other countries what works best for training and retaining safe drivers, it will be important for U.S.-based schools and companies to listen and learn so our trainers continue to expand their skills and ultimately better prepare drivers.

The United States is often at the forefront of technology and professional practices. But in the case of driver training, the ELDT final rule shows how the United States is finally catching up on professional driver training standards.

Instructional Technologies Inc. provides safety training solutions. With more than 20 years of experience in the transportation/logistics industry, McMillan is a Class A CDL holder and an award-winning instructional designer. She serves on the National Private Truck Council board of governors and on NAFA’s conference planning committee.