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FMCSA pulls back training proposal citing comments that raised substantive issues

The FMCSA said commenters on the proposed raised substantive issues on the subject to warrant rewriting the proposed rule. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

9/18/2013

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is withdrawing its Dec. 26, 2007, notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed new entry-level driver training standards for individuals applying for a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce.

The agency made the announcement through a Federal Register notice to be officially published Thursday.

In the notice, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro cited three reasons for the withdrawal:

• Commenters to the NPRM and participants in the agency’s public listening sessions in 2013 raised substantive issues which have led the agency to conclude that it would be inappropriate to move forward with a final rule based on the proposal.

• Since the NPRM was published, FMCSA received statutory direction on the issue of entry level driver training from Congress via the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) reauthorization legislation.

• The agency tasked its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) to provide ideas the agency should consider in implementing the MAP-21 requirements.

“In consideration of the above, the agency has concluded that a new rulemaking should be initiated in lieu of completing the 2007 rulemaking,” the notice said.

The Agency received more than 700 comments to its proposal and also received feedback from two listening sessions this year, one of those held during the Mid-America Trucking Show at Louisville, Ky., in March.

Additionally, on January 7, 2013, and March 22, 2013, FMCSA held listening sessions

While most commenters expressed support for the ELDT “concept,” they had divergent views on several of the proposed rule’s key provisions, the notice said.

Several industry organizations expressed opposition to the proposed mandate of a specific minimum number of training hours. Instead, these commenters support a performance-based approach to training that would allow an individual to move through the training program at his/her own pace.

Essentially, a driver who demonstrated mastery of one skill would be able to move to the next skill. The driver would not have to repeat continually or practice a skill for a prescribed amount of time – two hours, for example – if the driver could master the skill in 20 minutes.

The notice said other commenters, however, did support a minimum hours-based approach to training. They stated that FMCSA must specify the minimum number of instructional hours in order to be consistent with the original Model Curriculum of the 1980s. Additionally, some supporters of an hours-based training approach believed that the Agency’s proposal did not involve sufficient hours (particularly behind-the-wheel hours) to train a driver adequately. Finally, other commenters suggested a hybrid of the hours-based and performance-based approaches.

Several commenters asserted that by establishing a minimum number of hours required for training, the Agency would create a Federal standard that would eliminate certain Federal loan options otherwise available to students enrolled in driver training programs. They claimed that the U.S. Department of Education would refuse to authorize Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) or Direct Loan funding to programs more than 50 percent longer than the minimum 120- or 90-hour programs for Class A and B/C CDL applicants proposed by the FMCSA.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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