The Entry-Level Driver Training rule, which was originally set to be implemented on February 7th, 2020, will now be delayed another two years.
The ELDT will eventually mandate that commercial driver applicants finish a particular section of training (required in 49 CFR part 380) before obtaining a Class A or B commercial driver’s license, an upgrade to a class B or Class A CDL, or adding a hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S) endorsement.
This rule comes in response to the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” or MAP-21, a federal transportation reauthorization bill which plans to aid the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in reducing crashes and injuries that involve large trucks and buses.
These changes are meant to further standardize driver training, as well as ensure school districts are complying with federal laws to keep students, staff, and other drivers safer on the road.
In a recent announcement of extension at the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conference, FMCSA Administrator Larry Minor explained that the new intended deadline to comply with MAP-21 regulations is now February 7th, 2022.
The official notice is “in the pipeline,” according to an anonymous DOT official. “The whole thing is going to be delayed. It’s mostly due to the failure of the states aligning their systems with the federal system.”
The formal announcement of the delay is expected by mid-December.
The delay is “disappointing,” says vice president of training program development for Instruction Technologies Inc., Laura McMillan. “Our reaction is that, my goodness, the industry has been waiting for standards and a professional-level curriculum for over 20 years. If this industry wants to raise the professional image of truck driving, it begins with how we educate new drivers and prepare them for the field.”
However, Don Lefeve, Commercial Vehicle Training Association President, remains optimistic.
“We do believe, based on conversations, that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety has a grasp of the problem, and we’re hopeful that they can implement it before the two-year delay period,” he said. “But we’re very disappointed that this is not going to be rolled out on time…There are still a lot of substandard programs that will remain in existence (until then).”
As of now, the ELDT has general training guidelines in place, but doesn’t quite specify how exactly to train drivers or even the number of training hours required. The overall intention is to standardize these topics at a national level in order to increase road safety.
The original implementation outline explained that ELDT would create a baseline for training requirements for new Class A and Class B CDL license holders, but changes would not apply to existing drivers. Any driver who was not changing their license or adding an endorsement, and who had completed training before February 7th, 2020, would be grandfathered into the rule and would not need to meet MAP-21 training baselines. After February 7th, new trainees would have needed to comply with the ELDT requirements.
Instructional Technologies Inc.’s McMillan, who has been working on an ELDT curriculum subcommittee, says the current system problems are not limited to the state’s individual regulations.
“The reality is that the training provider registry is not even available,” she explained. “It’s interesting that federal regulators would characterize that this is a state problem and that the states can’t comply when the federal system is not up and available. There seems to be a lack of ownership for this entire issue.”
McMillan also says schools and carriers were supposed to be able to self-certify by October 1st, but that registry, which was set to be the first aspect of completion for the required curriculum, is still not up and running.
Director of safety policy for American Trucking Associations, Dan Horvath, said he is not particularly surprised by any of this.
“We felt that to not delay the whole thing, to at least go forward with the requirements for training the driver [was something that] needed to go through,” he said. “We felt [that] that’s the whole point of the ELDT rule to begin with. We understand that the verification process on the back end would be a nuisance, but not enough to delay the whole rule. However, having said that, we did see that the majority of the comments on the delay were [saying] to delay the whole thing.”
Out of the 1,200 comments made on the rule over the summer, the majority of those who weighed in–comprised of people from state trucking associations, state police, state departments of motor vehicles, and school officials–wanted a delay of full compliance until 2022.
For example, the Minnesota Trucking Association said the rule should be postponed until all systems “from top to bottom” can fully comply with implementation.
“The MTA believes that partial implementation increases the odds for errors and unintentional non-compliance,” said the association. “Motor carriers are concerned that despite their best efforts to comply, state and federal information technology systems will miss information and place the carrier at risk.”