Many motor carriers believe that a if a truck driver has a valid commercial drivers license and can pass the other hiring requirements (like having a valid medical certificate), there is nothing else the company must do to train the driver before allowing the driver behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound machine that can inflict massive damage in a truck crash when mishandled.
The FMCSRs require motor carriers to train drivers.
That a motor carrier (trucking company) is required to train its drivers is addressed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) specifically including 49 C.F.R. Sect. 390.3(e) and the following other sections which state:
“Every employer must be knowledgeable of and comply with all regulations contained in the FMCSRs that are applicable to that motor carrier’s operations;
Every driver and employee must be instructed regarding, and must comply with, all applicable regulations contained in the FMCSRs.”
A commercial driver license alone does not mean a truck driver can safety operate the truck and equipment.
49 C.F.R. Sect. 391.11 addresses general qualifications of drivers and states, in part, that a person is qualified if he or she meets the list of requirement only one which (5) is the possession of “a valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license.” In addition to the other requirements expressly listed in (a)(1-8):
“(a)…a motor carrier shall not require or permit a person to drive a commercial motor vehicle unless that person is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
[a] person is qualified to driver a motor vehicle if he/she–[c]an by reason of experience, training, or both, safely operate the type of commercial motor vehicle he/she drives.”
Importantly, the FMCSRs make a clear indication that the possession of a CDL is separate and apart from a determination of whether the driver can safely operate the type of commercial motor vehicle he/she drives. In other words, a license does not equate to a determination the driver can safely operate that equipment. A license is simply a permit issued by a state agency. There are additional layers of responsibility that a reasonably safe motor carrier must comply with.
The motor carrier must have a system in place not only to train its drivers at the time of initial hire, but also to continuously train throughout the duration of the drivers’ employment.
What training a motor carrier must provide to a truck driver
49 C.F.R. Sect. 390.11 states:
“…it shall be the duty of the motor carrier to require observance of such duty or prohibition. If the motor carrier is a driver, the driver shall likewise be bound.”
Additionally, as part of the process of obtaining operating authority with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, motor carriers are also required file a safety certification. As part of the safety certification, the applicant must certify that the applicant (1) has in place a system and an individual responsible for ensuring overall compliance with FMCSRs; (3) has in place a driver safety training/orientation program; (5) is familiar with DOT regulations governing driver qualifications and has in place a system for overseeing driver qualification requirements. 49 C.F.R. 391; (6) has in place policies and procedures consistent with USDOT regulations governing driving and operational safety of motor vehicles, including drivers’ hours of service and vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance; (7) is familiar with and will have in place a system for complying with USDOT regulations governing alcohol and controlled substances testing requirements:
Although the FMCSR do not expressly state what type of training a motor carrier must provide, the industry has developed training customs and standards. There are many reputable companies that can provide the training materials and modules. There are even companies that can create and update safety training programs for motor carriers. J.J. Keller is one of those companies from which motor carriers can purchase training materials to implement their safety training programs.
When reading the FMCSRs as a whole and the requirements that a motor carrier is required to certify that a motor carrier “has a driver training/orientation program in place” it is established that motor carriers cannot simply hire drivers who have valid CDLs. They must do more and not only provide orientation training and ongoing operational training.
There are several cost-effective methods by which motor carriers can comply with their training responsibilities to make our roads safer.