Behind-the-wheel training: ‘Arbitrary’ nature of hours minimum doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be one

Dan Tucker | March 01, 2017

I’m a million-miler, and a CDL trainer, and a state-certified CDL evaluator. And above and beyond that I’ve been an emergency responder (for over 30 years). And I’m a realist. Oh, and I applied for the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee but was not accepted. Look at the list of members and see how many “drivers” or “driver trainers” you find. There aren’t many. Executives have completely different goals and objectives than drivers and trainers.

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No one learns at the same rate — that’s been pretty well hashed out and agreed on. Some folks are pretty good fairly fast — I wonder where they got that intuition? And some will not be good enough after many years and miles — that’s proven most every day with crashes of “seasoned drivers” who weren’t up to the task of avoiding the crash.

Alaska-based driver and trainer Dan Tucker, the author of this editorial, was responding to recent coverage of the lack of a behind-the-wheel minimum number of hours in FMCSA’s driver-training rule, also featured in this month’s print issue of Overdrive.

Thirty hours of behind-the-wheel training, even for the most intuitive student, is marginal if for no other reason than they can’t possibly encounter and learn from enough varied situations to be adept at handling the next one. Under the best of circumstances, 30 hours will only add up to five or six hundred miles if they’re being complete in their training. Thirty hours is less than a week. If you figure a couple of days “in town, in traffic” (very low miles), you’ve got a clue, but that doesn’t allow much time for “on the road.” And that doesn’t allow any time for dealing with the rest of the “normal driving conditions” met by all but the single-purpose LTL in-town driver, or the strictly-line-haul-on-the-highway drivers.

It took how many years to get to this point? And they still don’t have the basic issue — entry level driver training — covered adequately. Entry level drivers should be required a minimum of 40 hours and/or 1,000 miles (yes, that’s arbitrary, but at least it’s more exposure and training) and a skills-based performance test. And that should be with a “qualified, certified trainer,” not Uncle Bill who passes along all of his bad habits. Dan Tucker, Program Manger, Northern Industrial Training

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