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Employers that operate commercial motor vehicles should ensure that all commercial drivers are competent and well trained. For new drivers, the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) has established specific entry level training requirements, as outlined further below.
Training Requirements for Entry-Level Drivers
The FMCSA issued a final rule requiring training for entry-level drivers who are subject to commercial driver’s license (“CDL”) requirements. These requirements are required by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (“ISTEA”).
Drivers who are required to hold a CDL and have less than one year’s experience in operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce are subject to specific training requirements. 49 C.F.R. § 380.502(b).
These entry level driver training requirements apply only to drivers of CMVs as defined by 49 C.F.R. § 383.5. (i.e., any motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle as a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight in excess of 26,000 lbs., inclusive of towed units with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight in excess of 10,000 lbs., or has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 lbs., or is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or is any size and is used to transport hazardous materials requiring placarding under the FMCSA regulations).
Receipt of Training Certificate
An employer who uses an entry-level driver must ensure that the driver has received the training and has received a training certificate or diploma verifying that he/she received the training. 49 C.F.R. § 380.505. A copy of the certificate or diploma must be placed in the driver’s personnel or qualification file. 49 C.F.R. § 380.509(b). Employers must keep an employee’s entry-level training records for the duration of the employee’s employment and for one year following employment. 49 C.F.R. § 380.511.
Areas of Training
Training for entry-level drivers must include instruction in the following four areas:
- Driver Qualification: This area of training must cover the federal rules on medical certification and examination procedures, general qualifications, responsibilities and disqualifications based on various offenses, orders and loss of driving privileges. 49 C.F.R. § 380.503(a). These regulations can be found at 49 C.F.R. Part 391, Subparts B and E.
- Hours of Service: Instruction on the topic of “hours of service” must include the limitations on driving hours, the requirement to be off duty for a certain period of time, record of duty status preparation and exceptions. The training must also include fatigue countermeasures as a means to avoid crashes. 49 C.F.R. § 380.503(b). These regulations can be found at 49 C.F.R. Part 395.
- Driver Wellness: Training in the area of “driver wellness” must include information on basic health maintenance including diet and exercise as well as the importance of avoiding excessive use of alcohol. 49 C.F.R. § 380.503(c). Additional topics could include stress, sleep apnea, how to maintain healthy blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight, as well as the importance of periodic health monitoring and testing, diet and exercise.
- Whistleblower Protection: The training must include discussion of the right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer without risk of losing his/her job or being subject to reprisals for stating a safety concern. 49 C.F.R. § 380.503(c).
Acceptable Training Providers
The final rule allows the employer considerable latitude in determining what entity can provide the required training. Examples include an in-house training program developed by the employer’s staff, a training school, or a class conducted by a consortium or association of employers. The final rule allows a subsequent employer to accept a copy of a training certificate from a previous employer or other training provider.
Cost of Required Training
The question of who pays for the required training is to be determined between the employer/employee. For unionized employees, however, this topic should be the subject of collective bargaining negotiations. The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) would likely consider the topic a “mandatory” subject of bargaining, at least as applied to drivers who are already employed by the motor carrier.
General Driver Training
Driver qualification and training is an ongoing process that should be continuously emphasized. A motor carrier should maintain an ongoing training program for all drivers and carefully document such training initiatives. The documentation of such training should be included in the driver’s qualification file, which is required to be maintained by motor carriers for all of their drivers. 49 C.F.R. § 391.51.
Employers whose employees operate commercial motor vehicles must comply with entry level driver training requirements for drivers with less than one year’s experience in operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. In order to ensure compliance with these federal requirements, employers should have their training programs periodically reviewed by a by Transcom.