The hottest topic of discussion within the trucking industry in 2017 was easily the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that went into effect in December. A few months into it, some of the discussions are still just as hot and heavy. But the fuss surrounding the mandate will fade over time. It will eventually be replaced by another rule that is not being talked about that much.
This rule might very well be the next ‘big rule’ that transforms the trucking industry. It is called the Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule, and it will fundamentally alter how CDL training is offered in this country. When implemented, the final rule will affect CDL training offered at community colleges, private CDL schools, and even schools operated by motor carriers themselves.
Federal regulators say the rule is necessary in order to establish some sort of standardization for CDL training. Until 2006, there were no training standards whatsoever. Now, the standards are minimal. Federal rules require driver trainers to have at least two years of driving experience and meet any state requirements for training. Yet fewer than half of the states have any such requirements.
What the ELDT Rule Mandates
Transport Topics contributor and industry expert Laura MacMillan detail what the new ELDT rule entails in an excellent piece published in late February. The rule will affect both trainers and drivers to different extents, with most of the changes being felt by the trainers.
Beginning in 2020, any facility offering CDL training will have to meet minimum federal standards covering facilities, curriculum, and the trainers who offer instruction. Any facility not meeting the standards will not be able to legally operate. The standards are intended to accomplish a number of things:
- Prepare trainers to be effective at what they do
- Prepare drivers to safely operate commercial vehicles
- Force the development of comprehensive curriculum to train drivers effectively
- Eventually recruit and retain more drivers through better training and ongoing education.
MacMillan supports the rule as currently written. In her support, she cites European standards that go far and above what is required here. For example, CDL trainers in EU countries undergo a minimum of 145 hours of training designed to help them better perform in the classroom. These trainers are not learning the basics of driving and regulations – they already know those things. They are learning how to actually teach.
Those same trainers must undergo an eight-hour recertification course every two years to continue working as trainers. The European mindset is one of being better at training drivers by being better at training trainers. European regulators believe that well-trained trainers are better able to train future drivers in such a way as to positively affect retention rates.
There Will Be Opposition
By sometime next year it is expected that opposition to the ELDT mandate will begin to grow. As more drivers and motor carriers become aware of the mandate, they are likely to raise objections rooted in the idea that yet another mandate will just make the trucking industry more difficult to work in.
Meanwhile, companies that operate their own CDL schools – companies like C.R. England for example – will begin revamping their operations to bring them up to standards. They will start developing new curricula; they will begin looking at certifying their trainers; they will be implementing new training procedures at their schools.
If history is an indicator, opposition to the ELDT mandate will not prevent its implementation. By the end of the decade, CDL training is going to look a lot different in this country.