Statement on Ineffective Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Training Rule

  • December 7, 2016
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


Contact: Allison Kennedy, 202-408-1711,


Meaningless Rule Issued by FMCSA Disregards Congressional Mandates, Federal Court Precedent, Experts Convened by the Agency and Common Sense

Rule Only Adds to Agency’s Shameful Legacy of Failing to Issue Effective Training Rule to Advance Safety and Protect the Public

As fatal truck crashes reach levels not seen in years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has once again shirked its duty to protect truck drivers and the public by issuing a rule that fails to require a minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours for new Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) applicants before sharing the road with American families. The agency’s history of issuing ineffective proposals for CDL training is simply inexcusable when the safety of the motoring public and commercial drivers is at stake.

Congress, safety groups and families of truck crash victims have been battling to get the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to act on a CDL training rule for over two decades.  Individuals operating a large commercial motor vehicle (CMV), either a truck weighing as much as 80,000 pounds or a motorcoach full of passengers traveling home for the holidays, need to have some actual BTW training. Currently, the FMCSA requires only 10 hours of classroom instruction with no BTW training requirement.  In 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a CDL training rule that failed to require BTW hours.  In 2012, Congress directed FMCSA to issue a rule requiring BTW training as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21, Pub. L. 112-141).  That same year, FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), comprised of transportation and safety experts also recommended that the agency require a minimum number of BTW hours as part of any training rule.

In 2015, FMCSA convened a group of experts to draft a training rule as part of a Negotiated Rulemaking. All but two members of the group supported a requirement that ensures candidates would receive a minimum amount of BTW training.  The vote was unanimous as to the members of the group representing safety groups, training schools, the motorcoach industry and individual drivers.  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued earlier this year reflected the consensus reached by the group.  Yet, in a complete reversal, the Final Rule issued today strips the BTW requirement and ignores the consensus reached by experts who have collectively spent decades examining this issue.

The FMCSA’s decision regarding BTW training also ignores established industry practice and defies common sense.  The leading CDL training schools already require that their students complete a minimum number of hours of BTW training.  Numerous states also require that licensed CDL training schools provide a minimum number of BTW hours.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires candidates seeking a commercial pilot’s license must have accumulated approximately 250 hours of flight time.  Transportation occupations are not alone in requiring that new entrants gain practical experience before earning a license.  Barbers licensed in Virginia must accumulate 490 hours of minimum performances and nail technicians must have 275 hours.  FMCSA, however, believes there should be no minimum hours required to master the difficult job of safely operating a CMV.

The agency’s utter failure to once again issue a training rule that will require that CDL applicants gain experience that can only be obtained by actually operating a CMV comes at a critical time.  In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks, representing an increase of 4 percent from the previous year and a 20 percent increase from 2009.  This is the first time truck crash deaths have exceeded 4,000 since 2008.  Further, early release data for 2015 shows that 116,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks — an increase of 57 percent since 2009.  The annual cost to society from crashes involving commercial motor vehicles is estimated to be over $110 billion.

The agency has a history of failing the public, and has once again done so by issuing a weak and ineffective rule that will do nothing to advance safety.