A proposed delay of the compliance date for two key provisions within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s final rule on Entry-Level Driver Training is not going over well in trucking circles.
FMCSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on July 18 that seeks to extend the compliance date from February 7, 2020, to February 7, 2022 for (1) when driver-training providers must upload entry-level driver training certification information into the Training Provider Registry and (2) for State Driver Licensing Agencies to receive driver-specific ELDT information.
“This action would provide FMCSA additional time to complete development of the electronic interface that will receive and store ELDT certification information from training providers and transmit that information to the SDLAs [State Driver Licensing Agencies],” the agency stated in its Federal Register notice of the proposal.
“The proposed extension would also provide SDLAs with sufficient time to modify their information technology (IT) systems and procedures, as necessary, to accommodate their receipt of driver-specific ELDT data from the TPR,” FMCSA continued.
Between the Lines
So, reading between the lines, it seems the agency may be suffering from a general IT shortfall or perhaps a batch of glitches that is forcing it to buy a full two years of time to essentially enable it to enable compliance with its rule.
Whether that’s too harsh an assessment remains to be seen, but what is crystal-clear is that FMCSA still plans to stick to the schedule for the other compliance elements of this final rule.
The agency puts that this way in its notice: “FMCSA does not propose any other substantive changes to the requirements established by the ELDT final rule. This means that, beginning February 7, 2020, training providers wishing to provide ELDT must be listed on the TPR and drivers seeking a CDL or endorsement on or after February 7, 2020, must complete the required training, as set forth in the ELDT final rule.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, trucking stakeholders did not warmly receive his news. For example, while Sean McNally, spokesperson for the American Trucking Associations, told HDT that “ATA strongly supports the ELDT requirements established in FMCSA’s 2016 final rule,” he added that, “However, ATA is concerned that delaying major aspects of the ELDT requirements could have a significant impact on the enforcement and the effectiveness of the rule’s intended goal.”
Replying more bluntly, Lane Kidd, managing director of the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, told HDT that, “A business couldn’t survive if it casually extended its deadlines like this. These are ‘point and click’ processes, so [we are] not sure why trainers and states need two additional years to figure out how to share information on who’s actually completed this training.”
The Commercial Vehicle Training Association said in a statement that it applauds FMCSA for “moving forward with the Entry-Level Driver Training regulation despite IT system implementation complications.”
CVTA said that by requiring drivers to demonstrate driving and knowledge proficiency, it considers the ELDT rule to be “a major step in advancing highway safety by ensuring training providers properly educate the next generation of commercial vehicle drivers.”
A Possible Workaround
Nonetheless, the group stated that, “Unfortunately, we believe the decision to delay the individual certification is particularly problematic for enforcement and safety reasons. CVTA urges the FMCSA to consider establishing a database to accept individual certifications.”
CVTA elaborated on its thinking on that: “We believe a temporary database should be established to allow an individual to print out a receipt that acknowledges their training while the FMCSA addresses its larger IT implementation issues. This solution would further align the regulation to the law passed by Congress in 2012.”
A provider of ELDT and other training/consulting services suggested a similar workaround. “FMCSA could set up a stop gap solution such as a [Microsoft] Access [relational] database where student data can be entered by the provider and states can access via the web to retrieve confirmation of student completion of training by a qualified training provider,” Laura McMillan, vice president of training development for Instructional Technologies, told HDT.
“Essentially, it's possible, in the time before 'go live' in Feb 2020, for FMCSA to apply a $1,000 solution to a million-dollar problem-- that of the inability to enforce the new rule,” added McMillan, who served on the curriculum subcommittee as part of the development of the agency’s ELDT rulemaking.
Tim Blum, executive director of the Professional Truck Driver Institute, a nonprofit that certifies driver-training programs told HDT that aside from the agency’s proposed compliance delays, “the federal requirements are the new normal, even if the technology isn’t quite ready, and trucking companies can benefit from sources that graduate drivers who meet the standards.
“Many of the training programs PTDI talks with don’t understand the changes that are needed to meet the new regulation,” he continued. “Trucking companies who hire drivers can help themselves by encouraging schools to adapt and meet the new requirements sooner rather than later.”
Blum noted that the ELDT regulation should be seen as “more than the TPR [Training Provider Registry].” With that in mind, he said. “There needs to be a shift in the school mindset to view compliance like trucking companies do. It’s going to take an ongoing investment for schools to prove they can do what they say they do.”
FMSCA is accepting public comments, which can be submitted online, on its proposal to delay the compliance date for the two provisions for two years.
The final ELDT rule itself was issued on December 7, 2016.