The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which falls under the Department of Transportation, has a primary mission to “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” As a result, it’s constantly updating regulations to help it achieve its goals and improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles. FMCSA has plenty of changes up its sleeves for 2022, but let’s take a look at two of the major highlights – updates to Clearinghouse and new Entry-Level Driver Training updates.
FMCSA Clearinghouse Updates
Back in 2014, the FMCSA proposed creating a type of clearinghouse for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders. The intent was to boost roadway safety by enabling employers “to identify drivers who commit a drug and alcohol program violation while working for one employer, but who fail to subsequently inform another employer.” Congress greenlit the plan and DOT’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was born.
Today, Clearinghouse continues to serve as an online database for employers, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLA), and law enforcement. The tool offers up real-time data about CDL (and CLP-commercial learner’s permit) holders, including data on any prior drug and alcohol offenses. Details regarding alcohol and substance misuse and testing for drivers are outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 383 – Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing (49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B).
As pointed out by Transport Safety Management Today (via J.J. Keller’s compliance library), changes coming down the pipeline will require states to implement stricter guidelines regarding CDL/CLP holders. Specifically, if Clearinghouse lists a driver as being prohibited, that driver should not be issued a new license and should receive a downgrade on any current license, within 60 days of their prohibition listing.
Meanwhile, Tow Industry Week highlights a scenario in which an employer could face consequences if they “…hire a CDL driver without checking their history in the Clearinghouse (as required by current law) then their CDL is suspended or downgraded without your knowledge.” Such a hypothetical oversight, intentional or not, could mean the company might inadvertently hire a “driver with a serious problem” related to alcohol or substance abuse. It also means the company “could face severe fines or other penalties for allowing them to operate a CMV.”
DISA Global Solutions notes that such fines can be hefty. “The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a final rule allowing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to fine drivers, carriers, and Medical Review Officers (MROs) up to $5,833 for each violation of the drug and alcohol clearinghouse at 49 CFR Part 382 Subpart G,” the site notes.
Entry-Level Driver Training Updates
- First-time Class A or B CDL applicants
- Drivers seeking to upgrade from Class B to Class A
- Drivers seeking first-time endorsement for school bus, passenger, or hazardous materials
FMCSA’s new policy, which kicked in on February 7, 2022, also requires CDL applicants to take “a skills test, hazardous materials endorsement test, or passenger endorsement test” from one of FMCSA’s authorized Training Provider Registry locations.
FMCSA further notes that the new regulations aren’t retroactive. In other words, drivers “who were issued a CDL or an S, P, or H endorsement prior to February 7, 2022 are not required to complete training for the respective CDL or endorsement.” By the same token, an applicant “who obtains a CLP prior to February 7, 2022” then “obtains a CDL before the CLP or renewed CLP expires” is also exempted from the new ELDT policy.
Per the Training Provider Registry FAQ, “SDLAs must verify that an entry-level driver has completed the required training before allowing the driver to proceed with testing.” However, the time at which an SDLA needs to perform that verification depends on which license or endorsement is being applied for.
The Cost of New ELDT Rules for Employees
These Entry-Level Driver Training changes have financial costs associated, since training isn’t free and someone has to pay for it. The question is who?
Training fees can rack up fast, running from $3,000 – $10,000. Price variables include the cost of fees for the CDL application, road test, skills test, the actual license itself, and other endorsements. Schneider’s post “How much does it cost to get a CDL?” offers a complete breakdown of other factors that impact the price of truck driving schools.
The South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance (SDPAA) states that employers may be on the hook to pay training fees for existing employees “who need a CDL upgrade or are obtaining their CDL for the first time.” SDPAA suggests employers take a moment to review job descriptions and see which positions cite a CDL requirement or update in the job duties. They also point out that “employers may but are not required to cover expenses for new employees to obtain their CDL.”
More details on these changes are noted in the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 384 – State Compliance With Commercial Driver’s License Program (§384.230 Entry-level driver certification):
(a) Beginning on February 7, 2022, a State must comply with the requirements of § 383.73(b)(11) and (e)(9) of this subchapter to verify that the applicant completed the training prescribed in subpart F of part 380 of this subchapter.
(b)(1) A State may issue a CDL to individuals who obtain a CLP before February 7, 2022, who have not complied with subpart F or part 380 of the subchapter so long as they obtain a CDL before the CLP or renewed CLP expires.
(2) A State may not issue a CDL to individuals who obtain a CLP on or after February 7, 2022, unless they comply with subpart F or part 380 of this subchapter.
Note: EDLDT rules don’t apply to everyone. A few exemptions listed under 49 CFR Part 383 include: Persons applying under §383.3(c), (d), or (h), or who are applying for a restricted CDL under §383.3(e) through (g); military personnel who fall under §383.77; and persons applying for restriction removal, per §383.135(b)(7).