As most truck accident lawyers can attest, a large percentage of truck accidents that occur on U.S. highways today are the result of driver error. Among these, many involve novice and less experienced drivers. As a result, the issue of driver training has been hotly debated in recent years as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has contemplated changes to licensing requirements that specifically address driver training.
The FMCSA has issued its new regulations. While they do offer improvements in some areas, many safety advocates and truck wreck lawyers feel the minimum training rule still leaves a lot to be desired.
New Minimum Driver Training Rule Finalized
In December 2016, the FMCSA published a finalized version of driver training rules that truck accident lawyers say have been in the works since 2012 when Congress passed the MAP 21 highway bill. Throughout preliminary discussions regarding the type of driver training necessary to reduce truck accidents, a requirement of behind the wheel (BTW) training was included, although it was minimal. Industry groups pressed for increasing this requirement in the final ruling.
Yet to the surprise of industry safety advocates and many truck wreck lawyers, the finalized rule includes only a vague requirement for “some” BTW training along with classroom training; there is no stated minimum. Industry groups are pleased that a training rule has finally been decided on; however, there is a definite concern about the omission of minimum BTW hours as part of this rule.
FMCSA Says No Benefit to BTW Training Requirements
Defending the decision to remove a specific hour minimum on behind-the-wheel training, truck accident lawyers are upset that the FMCSA says they found no benefit in this. According to research done by the agency, 30 hours of BTW training as proposed by numerous trucking industry groups only resulted in a 3.6% reduction in truck accidents.
The Administration states that the benefits of such a rule were difficult to measure in a cost-benefit analysis. There is a lack of data directly correlating increased BTW training hours with safety improvements, so they could not substantiate the change.
Industry Groups Argue Ruling on BTW Hours
While groups like the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA), the Truck Safety Coalition, and the Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety are all happy there is finally a rule on driver training requirements, they find the rule to be seriously flawed.
Truck wreck lawyers point out that each of the three organizations has now petitioned the FMCSA about the omission of minimum BTW requirements, still pressing for a 30 hour minimum on BTW training.
According to these and other industry and safety advocates, new drivers need as much on-the-road training as possible to thoroughly prepare them for commercial driving. They find that as the rule is currently written, it does little more than ensure the new drivers have only the most basic skills, leaving them ill-prepared for actual time on the road.
The new driver training rule goes into effect in December of 2020. Between now and then, truck accident lawyers expect that safety and industry organizations will continue to petition for stricter rules on minimum behind the wheel training hours. The release of a finalized driver training rule is definitely a step in the right direction to improve safety and reduce truck accidents. Yet many people including truck wreck lawyers who see the results of these crashes firsthand agree that a ruling on more BTW training is necessary!
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190