NASHVILLE—The federal government has postponed compliance with its entry-level driver training requirements, but the curriculum is available and is a valuable resource for new and experienced commercial drivers, said Ken Presley, the United Motorcoach Association’s vice president of industry relations and chief operating officer.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to capture something we have never had before,” he said during an education session at Motorcoach EXPO 2020. “It is vetted by professional educators and professional training schools. It is an opportunity to fill in the gaps for existing drivers who may not know everything the curriculum covers.”
In January the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced an amendment to its final rule that originally set a compliance date of Feb. 7, 2020, for new drivers to undergo the training before they may receive commercial licenses. The rule now becomes effective on Feb. 7, 2022.
“This action will provide FMCSA with additional time to complete development of the Training Provider Registry (TPR),” the notification explained. “The TPR will allow training providers to self-certify that they meet the training requirements and will provide the electronic interface that will receive and store entry-level driver training certification information from training providers and transit that information to State Driver Licensing Agencies.”
In the meantime, Presley said, the curriculum offered in the federal rule is recommended even for drivers who have long held commercial licenses. “We have drivers who may have been driving for 10 to 30 years but have never been exposed to this curriculum.”
The curriculum includes specific chapters for drivers seeking passenger endorsements.
“It includes information such as the proper way to load a motorcoach from a weight perspective, the ADA (American Disabilities Act), sensitivity training and customer relations—how to deal with an unruly customer,” Presley said. “There also is a focus on security issues and how to reach out to law enforcement.”
Certification in the state-of-the art training could be helpful for experienced drivers who face scrutiny after an accident.
“How many of you have ever had a driver have to give a deposition?” Presley asked. “One of the things that frequently comes out is questioning about their training. What does the driver say? ‘I didn’t have that training. Nope, never had that training.'”
Also, he added, drivers welcome the opportunity. “One of the whines I have heard in driver meetings is, ‘I don’t feel like we are getting enough training.’ A lot of drivers perceive training on the positive side as an investment in them. They feel like they are being treated more like a professional at that company.
“Companies that do frequent training tend to have less driver turnover. Retaining a driver is a lot cheaper than recruiting a driver.”