FMCSA hears testimony on entry level driver training

| March 26, 2013

On the afternoon of March 22, representatives of driver-training schools, fleets who do their own training and, representing a majority of attendees, professional drivers gathered in a conference room at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., for the second of two listening sessions aimed ultimately at answering a very simple question, said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, on hand for the session: ““How much safer is a driver who has been trained [formally] in the long run” than one who hasn’t?

The MAP-21 highway bill passed last year directed the FMCSA to finish its work on the entry level driving training (ELDT) rule begun well before the FMCSA existed, Ferro said. The listening session was a key element in agency’s information-gathering efforts toward issuing a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for revised training rules, hopefully in early 2014.

Lou Spoonhour of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association

Lou Spoonhour of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association

The session got under way with representatives of driver-training schools lodging formal objections to the school-accreditation requirement written into the agency’s 2007 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on entry-level driver training requirements. Lou Spoonhour, representing the Commercial Vehicle Training Association with 180 member training locations throughout the United States, argued for a performance-based standard for testing rather than a training-hours-based standard. “What should an entry level driver be able to do?” he asked. “We think the answer to this whole entry-level-driver-training situation lies in performance.”

Spoonhour referenced the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators’ work on CDL testing requirements and gave an example of a current testing requirement — backing a combination vehicle 112 feet in a 12-ft.-wide space “without encroaching on either side,” he said. “I can tell you from our experience, we have students who can get in that truck and, the first time, back in with no problems.”

With a performance-based ELDT standard, such a driver would have satisfied the training requirement easily without mandated hours requirements of training.

Lee Strebel

“It boggles the mind that a guy with six months’ experience is already a trainer.” –veteran driver Lee Strebel

In the words of 38-year OTR driver and sometime driver trainer Lee Strebel, also commenting at the hearing, “Some guys learn a lot faster than others.”

At once, Strebel, responding to a question from FMCSA Associate Administrator for Policy Larry Minor, said he thought 300-400 hours of intensive behind-the-wheel experiential training would not be unreasonable for a requirement of entry-level drivers, as long as it was true training. He echoed former company driver and owner-operator Jeana Hysell, speaking in her current role as Director of Safety with the Safety Compliance Professionals consulting group, when she asked regulators to abolish the “team concept” of entry-level training practiced by some trucking companies and require at a minimum 3-5 years of professional driving experience of active truck drivers before they could take on a training role with a carrier. In her role as a mentor to many new drivers, she said, “I’ve taken many calls from trainees not knowing what to do or how to handle certain situations, because their trainee was asleep in the bunk.”

"There is no way a trainer can train an individual while they’re asleep in the bunk." --Jeana Hysell of Safety Compliance Professionals

“There is no way a trainer can train an individual while they’re asleep in the bunk.” –Jeana Hysell of Safety Compliance Professionals

Strebel gave the example of “so many companies out here,” he said, who “will take a guy through the training process” and put him “out two months tops with a trainer, then out on his own,” before four months later bringing them into the office and saying, “Hey, we want you to be a trainer.”

“It boggles the mind,” Strebel said, “that a guy with six months’ experience is already a trainer. Before they can become a trainer, they should have a minimum of five years’ experience out here. With five years of good safe driving they understand the concept of good safe driving.”

Video of the four-hour session is archived via the DOT’s page at this link. Register there to view the archived webcast, and drivers wishing to add further commentary to the official ELDT docket can follow one of the following procedures:

Using Docket ID FMCSA-2007-27748, submit comments to: the Federal eRulemaking Portal at; by U.S. Mail to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001; hand-delivery or courier to West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays; Fax: 1-202-493-2251.

  • martymarsh

    The big companies are trying to prove anyone can do it.

  • milton

    yes 2 weeks in school and 2 or 3 weeks with a trainer get real folks most run as a team from the get go and some do come better prepared than others and can get it from the start but these big companies dont look for that they want a but in the seat some dont care good or bad .

  • mtn man

    i think its a joke how some carriers make rookies trainers with 3 months driving well now days i quess its rookies training rookies a accident waiting to happen i quess thats the way they do it in salt lake

  • Mike Jones

    Western Express..who has several ALERTS on their CSA file is advertizing Today for drivers..6 months experience……2 recent accidents is “ok”….3 recent citations is “ok” and Felony is “acceptable”………gee whats the problem?? How Hilarious..if you can Breathe the mega fleets want YOU!!!!

  • Mike Jones

    Carolina Cargo hires Felons of any type…10 cpm as beginning team driver…..such a DEAL!!!! Its great knowing your wife is likely to get raped and killed if she gets out of the truck to use
    the restroom!!! We NEED more Ex Convicts out here!!

  • Mike Jones

    Yep…Carolina Cargo..Rock Hill, South Carolina they have 2 Alerts on their CSA file..98% for Unsafe Driving….they WILL hire ANY ex convict/Felon……got to be fun there!!

  • Mike Jones

    Why is Ann Ferro holding this ignorant meeting…she knows the industry is Corrupt from A-Z…she is bought and paid for like all the other CSA cops… bigmoney!!

  • Mike Jones

    Carolona Cargo has 68 tractors and 32 accidents in past 2 years….Ann Ferro act like she doesnt know these companies are operating?? What a JOKE….

  • Don Lanier

    The Some guys learn faster then others concept is fine but just because he backed the trailer down two white lines doesnt mean he can do it the aisle of a Warehouse with trucks waiting and trailers close together and a lack of proper space….EXPERIENCE is the only way….I dont think most schools make these guys DRIVE enough, they really need to go into truck stops, back in, go to a warehouse back in, go to a too small shipper where you have to jack knife the rig to just get into a spot,,,,,there are just too many variables out on the road, the team concept is fine if your paired with a guy who will train you, not sleep, or just ride along and collect an extra stip[end on his pay, Trainers should be certified and yes have 5 years exp….the more real world driving these guys get instead of cones on a parking lot the better off they will be top face the Late night truck stop Jam….

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  • Leszek Kolodziej

    first step of any commercial driver’s training should be an IQ test. Or any drivers for that matter.

  • Mike Jones

    LOL…..So TRUE…….so MANY would be washed out..with IQ only at the level of MORON..or IMBICILE…ahahahha..

  • mousekiller

    Whether your a felon or not has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to drive a truck. Narrow minded people are trying to put the blame elsewhere. We ,the industry have stopped teaching by example. We have allowed our image to be ruined by allowing the dumpster diver welfare mentality class people behind the wheel for the public to see and judge.

  • Mike Jones

    It is kind of funny…coming out the door at Hesparia, Cal it is hard to tell the Homeless from the “drivers” what a freak show! They all look like Bums…who are going to ask for money! What a shithole that place is!

  • Allan

    Take away the automated transmission and you will see better drivers

  • Mike Jones

    Lots of trucking companies are advertizing today looking to hire a “Chofer”….apply within..see Jose Garcia…..

  • easymoney

    bingo Mike ! you got that right driver

  • Gideon

    I rather see the exconvicts working and making a positive contribution to society rather than going back to breaking the law and my hard earn tax dollars used to take care of them again. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.