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FMCSA confirms denial of bid to modify driver training rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has, in effect, confirmed an earlier denial of a petition for reconsideration of the final entry-level driver training rule. In one of his final acts as FMCSA administrator, Scott Darling denied a petition that had been filed December 21 by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Truck Safety Coalition, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The transition from President Obama to President Trump caused some confusion over whether the Trump administration was standing by Darling's denial of the petition. Although denial letters initially were posted in the online docket system a few days after Darling's departure, they were deleted soon after. But the denial letters were reposted to the docket on February 10.

In identical January 19 letters to each of the petitioners, Darling noted that the petition did not request that FMCSA take any specific remedial action on the rule but that the agency "infers that you are asking for reconsideration of the decision not to include a mandatory minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours, as proposed in the March 2016 NPRM."

The final rule currently is scheduled to take effect March 21. It originally was scheduled to February 6, but FMCSA delayed the effective date in response to a government-wide regulatory moratorium issued by the White House on January 20. Assuming the rule ultimately is upheld, the delay is essentially meaningless because compliance is not required until February 2020.

The proposed rule had called for a minimum of 30 hours in BTW training for Class A commercial driver's license (CDL) applicants and a minimum of 15 hours in BTW training for Class B CDL applicants, but the final rule dropped an hours-based requirement in favor of a proficiency-based requirement.

"In support of your position that a minimum BTW hours requirement should be included in the final rule, you largely repeat points previously raised in your comments to the NPRM and in other public statements," Darling said in the letters. "Although you cite recent increases in the number of large truck crashes involving injuries and fatalities, you neither assert nor offer any evidence that a lack of driver training was the cause of – or even a factor in – any of those crashes."

Darling said FMCSA thoroughly explained in the final rule the basis for its decision not to include the minimum BTW hours requirements as proposed. "As the Agency noted in the preamble to the final rule, in the absence of any reliable qualitative or quantitative link between mandatory BTW training hours and improved CMV safety outcomes, we were obliged to proceed with the least burdensome means of achieving the regulatory objective, as required by Section 1(a) of Executive Order 13563."

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