How to Make Scarce Drivers More Scarce

You may not recall this, but as of February 20, 2020 it’s going to be much harder to become a CDL driver. Waaay back on December 8, 2016 the FMCSA set entry-level driver training (ELDT) regulations, substantially increasing the amount of practical and theory education required to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Oddly, the final version of this rule eliminated a requirement for a minimum number of hours behind the wheel. While the Trump administration repeatedly delayed the new rules from coming into effect, and the FMCSA is again acting to change the requirements, especially reducing the cost of upgrading from a Class B to a Class A CDL, all indications are that at least entry-level requirements for entry-level drivers will be more strict.

The new rules, found at 49 CFR § 380.600 et. seq. require training under 49 CFR § 380.725. Various appendices provide differing requirements for Class A CDL, Class B CDL, and various endorsements, including HazMat. Topics required to upgrade from a Class B CDL to Class A include such things as Pre- and Post-Trip Inspections, Backing and Docking, Communication, Distracted Driving, Speed and Space Management, Skid Control/Recovery, Jackknifing, and Other Emergencies, Roadside Inspections, Hours of Service Requirements, and Fatigue and Wellness Awareness. Obviously there is a lot of overlap between upgrading from a Class B to A, and obtaining a Class A CDL outright, and topics for an entry-level Class A CDL include things like Basic Operation, Pre- and Post-Trip Inspections, Backing and Docking, Control such as Straight Line, Alley Dock, and Off-Set Backing, Parallel Parking, etc. The requirements for a Class B CDL are less involved.

It’s not at all clear that this change in requirement will be a major obstacle. Anyone already licensed is exempt. There were three years to hurry up and avoid the training requirement. The training requirement isn’t especially onerous, and was, at least in theory, intended to promote safety, reduce accidents, and thus reduce the risk and cost of accidents. The problem is not that the restrictions are too high, it is that many would say that there is already a “massive shortage,” or even a “critical shortage” of drivers. Putting additional obstacles in the way of obtaining the necessary license is unlikely to help that shortage.

If you have any questions about this article, or about transportation issues in general, contact Dov Szego at (804- 377-1263) or Steve Setliff at (804-377-1261).