10 Things to Know About Entry-Level Driver Training Rules

Kenworth T480 Front End Medium Duty Truck in Red

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations set the baseline for training requirements for entry-level drivers. What do these regulations mean for drivers, motor carriers and training providers? Here are the top 10 things you need to know. 

Which drivers are affected by the ELDT rule?
This rule applies to three categories of drivers:

  • Those obtaining a Class A or B commercial driver’s license (CDL) for the first time;
  • Class B holders seeking to upgrade to a Class A CDL; and
  • Those seeking to add a school bus (S), passenger (P) or hazmat (H) endorsement for the first time

Drivers who fall into these categories will be required to obtain entry-level driver training from a certified training provider to be eligible to take the skills and/or knowledge tests needed to obtain their CDL. The rule does not apply to any drivers who have completed their CDL transactions prior to Feb. 7, 2022. 

What does the training entail?
The training is broken into two subdivisions: a theory and behind-the-wheel (BTW) component. Drivers must successfully complete both sections to be eligible to complete their CDL transactions.

Drivers also must pass the theory component with a score of at least 80% and pass the BTW component — including both range and public roadway driving — to the satisfaction of the training provider.

Who provides the training?
Those that wish to provide the required entry-level driver training must be listed on the FMCSA's Training Provider Registry. Drivers must ensure their training provider is listed on the registry. Once a driver successfully passes the required training, the certified training provider must issue a certificate and upload an electronic copy to the registry so state drivers’ licensing agencies can verify the driver has completed the required training.

What are the minimum qualifications for entry-level instructors?
Training providers must certify their training is either developed or delivered by a qualified instructor. Theory instructors must hold a CDL of the same (or higher) class, and with all necessary endorsements, to operate the types of vehicles for which they are offering training. They must also have a minimum of two years’ experience either operating a commercial vehicle requiring a CDL of the same (or higher) class for which training is provided or as a BTW instructor. Theory instructors who previously held a CDL of the same or higher class for which they are offering training can still be eligible to provide instruction without a currently valid CDL, so long as their CDL wasn’t revoked, suspended or cancelled for a disqualifying reason.

The requirements for BTW instructors are the same, but BTW instructors must hold valid current CDLs.

Can entry-level training be completed online?
The theory component can be provided exclusively online, but the training must still be developed or delivered by a registered training provider and a qualified instructor, and it must track the FMCSA’s required curriculum.

Like live training, online training must also include an exam, which students must pass with a score of at least 80%. Unlike in-person training providers, online providers are not subject to state-specific minimum qualification standards.

What role does motor carriers play in this process?
Motor carriers have no specific obligations under this rule unless they intend to offer entry-level training to their own drivers. In that case, they need to either source the training from a registered provider and/or register themselves as a provider. Carriers who, as a matter of policy, only hire drivers who already hold CDLs have no role to play, since their driver candidates will already have taken the required training to obtain their CDLs.

If we purchase pre-packaged theory training to deliver to our drivers, do we need to register as a training provider?
If the training itself was developed by a registered training provider who will certify student completion, those who are simply delivering that training to their own drivers do not have to separately register as training providers. However, if the provider of the materials is not listed on the registry or is not certifying completion, then those delivering the content must register.

If a driver holds a commercial learner’s permit prior to Feb. 7, must he/she complete the training?
No. If a driver obtained a CLP prior to Feb. 7, 2022 and does not need to renew it after that date, he/she does not need to take the new entry-level driver training to complete his/her CDL transaction.

Must drivers take the theory portion prior to the BTW portion?
No. The theory and BTW components can be taken in any order and can even be obtained from separate registered training providers. In addition, drivers can obtain a commercial learner’s permit without completing the theory component. However, they cannot complete a skills test unless and until they successfully pass the BTW component.

Must a driver whose CDL expired prior to Feb. 7 obtain entry-level training to renew his/her CDL after that date?
No. If the driver’s CDL simply expired (i.e., not downgraded, suspended or revoked) before Feb. 7, 2022, he/she can renew the license after that date without obtaining entry-level driver training.

For more information about the entry-level driver training rule, check out the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry website here.

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