Entry-level driver training is the topic of a longstanding debate within the commercial trucking industry. This  debate includes many safety groups and the truck accident lawyers who represent them, pushing for stricter new driver requirements. Big rig accidents are a devastating reality on U.S. Highways. Many feel that newer drivers are not being adequately prepared for the job, which is more grueling than it seems. A high percentage of truck accidents involve newer, less experienced drivers. Because of this, some safety organizations have even taken to suing the FMCSA to try to convince them that driver training requirements must change.

Organizations Claim Current Training Requirements Not Good Enough

Driving a large tractor-trailer, that can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs when fully loaded, is a lot more difficult than it may seem. These vehicles are difficult to handle, and even more difficult to stop when traveling at highway speeds. An operator can easily lose control if one of these rigs becomes unstable in wind and bad weather. Therefore, these vehicles must be skillfully operated to keep everyone on the highway safe.

Despite these facts, it is surprisingly easy to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) and be able to drive one a big rig. Safety groups such as the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, among many others, are pushing for greater training requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which governs things like licensing requirements.

The Issue of Easily Obtained Commercial Licenses

Currently, little more than applying for a CDL, passing a health exam, and undergoing minimal driver training is required for a person to become a big rig driver, which many feel is partially to blame for the number of big rig accidents. On-the-job driver training is not required, although many drivers do take this training voluntarily.  It still allows for drivers to be licensed and employed without having a license. Advocates point out it is counterproductive to put drivers on the road who have no experience in handling a big rig under normal conditions, let alone abnormal ones. 

There is also a shortage of drivers, which adds even more pressure for the industry to keep hiring. Yet there is a strong argument that better safety regulations are required to improve the industry as a whole. Additionally, because of driver shortage and the push to get more people behind the wheel, a significant license fraud problem does exist. Safety advocates, including truck accident lawyers, express that with stiffer licensing requirements, fraudulently licensed drivers will be easier to get off the highways.

Delays in Increasing FMSCA Requirements

This concern over driver training requirements has been in discussion for over twenty years. Multiple safety organizations have filed suit with the government, and even Congress has stepped in to find out why the FMSCA has still not addressed the concern. The FMSCA has been working on making the required changes that would increase truck driver training requirements for many years, but has still not released anything definite. They claim that actually enforcing the suggested rule changes is impossible at this time. The organization argues that crash studies claiming that inexperienced drivers are responsible for a majority of accidents has been “over-represented” in these studies. This indicates the group feels the issue is not as important as safety advocates make it out to be.

While there is no doubt that more, better training is important for any job, the argument over driver training and big rig accidents continues. Safety advocates, pushing for increased driver education, do not intend on giving up on this issue anytime soon. The hope is that through increased awareness and continued pressure, the FMCSA will eventually do what is necessary to require enough training to make inexperienced drivers less of a risk. For more information about legal concerns surrounding truck driver training issues, truck accident lawyers can help!

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