New drivers need new training

July 1, 2004 By    

New truck drivers are going to have to go through new training procedures. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued new minimum training requirements for entry-level commercial motor vehicle operators.

The agency wrote the new rules after a study determined that private sector training of commercial drivers was inadequate. Most of the rules take effect July 20.

The rules don’t require a specific number of hours of training, but estimate 10. Employers can provide the training themselves or send drivers to schools. The rule covers drivers with less than a year’s experience driving commercial motor vehicles. Drivers who begin work within 10 months before the rule took effect and two months after will get a 90-day grace period.

Drivers crossing state lines will need to study rules pertaining to qualification, hours of service, wellness and whistleblower protection. Instructors must address medical conditions that could hamper safety, including loss and impairment of limbs, insulin control for diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, vision, hearing and alcoholism. Trainers also will need to cover driver responsibilities, disqualifications and loss of driving privileges.

The final rule also requires training on hours of service, covering topics such as fatigue management, number of hours allowed per shift, mandatory time between shifts, and exceptions to the rules.

New drivers, those with expired medical cards and those whose ability to perform their normal duties has been impaired will need medical exams.

Employers also must obey some new record-keeping rules, including keeping proof-of-training certificates that must include the name, address and phone number of the trainer so the employer can verify authenticity. They also must keep driver license numbers on file. Records must be kept for a year after the driver leaves the company.

The rules don’t address who will pay for the training; Congress appropriated no funds for it. FMCSA assumes most employers will pay for current employees but probably won’t hire new drivers unless outside training schools certify them.

FMCSA says complying with the rule will cost businesses a total of $26 million the first year and $14 million each subsequent year to train about 32,400 drivers annually. It also expects to prevent about 201 collisions annually at a cost savings of $16 million a year.

Briefly Speaking

Energy bill hope fading
Chances for passing a major energy bill this year took a blow in
the 2005 budget resolution. Conferees dropped a reserve fund to pay for new
programs, which had appeared in a Senate draft. The resolution does say that
Congress could adjust the budget should energy legislation pass. The House
passed the agreement, which would allow spending for any new surface transportation
programs, should Congress pass a bill in conference.

The resolution allows for President Bush’s proposed $112 million increase
for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, increasing funding 6 percent
to $2 billion.

Cargo tank rollover standards
The Research & Special Programs Administration withdrew a 1999
plan to study hazmat cargo tank rollover damage protection standards. RSPA
determined that available evidence doesn’t justify a need for updating
rules. FMCSA did authorize a study to be completed in two years, at which
time the agencies will reopen the issue.

RSPA also delayed the effective date of its final rules regarding loading,
unloading and storage of hazardous materials from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1.

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