Hiring an Entry-Level Driver? Don't Forget Training
Written by Jill Schultz, J. J. Keller Editor – Transportation Safety
You've hired a new driver and want to get him/her on the road as soon as possible. You have taken care of the details that need to be addressed when it comes to compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) — making sure the driver has a valid license, completing the driver qualification file, and obtaining the appropriate safety performance history documentation. Also, the driver has passed a pre-employment drug test and is now a part of your drug and alcohol testing random pool.
Did you remember the one regulatory item that sometimes gets over-looked when it comes to new drivers — entry-level driver training? If you are hiring an entry-level driver, this training needs to be completed before he/she hits the road.
So who exactly is considered an entry-level driver? An entry-level driver is defined in Section 380.502 of the FMCSRs as a driver with less than one year's experience operating a commercial motor vehicle with a commercial driver's license (CDL) in interstate commerce.
Entry-level training requirements
Entry-level driver training includes instruction in four areas; driver qualification, hours of service, driver wellness, and whistleblower protection.
Driver qualification — Training on this topic must include a discussion of:
- General qualifications (§391.11),
- Driver responsibilities (§391.13),
- Driver disqualification (§391.15), and
- Physical qualification (Part 391, Subpart E).
Hours of service — This portion of the training must address fatigue prevention strategies as well as the causes of fatigue. In addition, the following regulatory requirements must be addressed:
- The limitations on driving hours,
- The requirement to be off-duty for certain periods of time,
- Record of duty status preparation , and
- Exceptions to the rules.
Driver wellness — The purpose of driver wellness training is to provide health and wellness information to the driver so the driver can make informed lifestyle choices. Topics that must be covered include:
- Diet and exercise,
- How to maintain healthy blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight,
- Avoiding excessive alcohol use,
- Stress management,
- Sleep apnea, and
- The importance of periodic health monitoring.
Whistleblower protection — This topic covers an employee's right to question the safety practices of an employer without the risk of losing a job or being subjected to reprisals simply for stating a safety concern. The whistleblower protection regulations are administered and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and are located in 29 CFR 1978.
Any employer who uses an entry-level driver must ensure that the driver has received training and has received a training certificate or diploma verifying this fact. A copy of this training certificate or diploma must be placed in the driver's qualification file or personnel file. It must be kept for as long as the driver is employed by the employer and for one year thereafter.
Changes on the horizon
Though the entry-level driver training regulations have been in effect for about a half-dozen years, we could see some dramatic changes to the requirements in the near-future.
Soon after the current regulation became effective it was legally challenged. In 2005, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered FMCSA to rewrite the regulation.
In response to the Court order, FMCSA published a new proposal in December 2007. This proposal would require training of entry-level drivers that is based on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Model Curriculum. Though developed in the mid-1980s, the Model Curriculum continues to be accepted as the foundation for driver training programs throughout the United States.
The proposal includes two courses of instruction, one for Class A CDL applicants and the other for Class B and Class C CDL applicants.
As proposed, the Class A course would require a minimum of 120 hours of instruction, including at least 76 hours of classroom and 44 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.
The proposed Class B and Class C course would require a minimum of 90 hours of instruction, including at least 58 hours of classroom and 32 hours of behind-the-wheel training.
Under the proposal, the institution providing the training must be accredited and instructors would be required to meet certain standards to be considered a qualified instructor.
A driver-student who successfully completes the training would be given a certificate that must be presented to his/her state driver licensing agency as part of the CDL application process.
During the five month comment period, FMCSA received over 900 comments from individuals and organizations.
FMCSA anticipates publishing a final rule in early 2011.
Whatever the new regulations require, motor carriers will need to be ready to implement them, making sure their entry-level drivers are fully qualified and ready to hit the road.
For J. J. Keller Services that can assist in managing your hiring process, please see the following:
- J. J. Keller Encompass - includes CSA management and Driver management
- J. J. Keller Driver Qualification File Management - a managed service where we help you establish, organize, standardize and maintain driver documentation including tracking training programs for entry-level drivers
- CSA Management Suite - an online service with CSA guidance
- Fleet Mentor - an online fleet management and advisory system
- Advisory Services - J. J. Keller can come to your facility to train and assess your compliance