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What Are the DOT Driver Training Requirements?

FMCSA requires specific driver training. But are you aware of the requirements where training is implied?
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Tom Bray - Industry Consultant - J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

December 06 , 2019

The FMCSA requires the following DOT driver training: Entry-Level driver training (Part 380), Longer Combination vehicle training (Part 380), Hazardous Materials training (Parts 172 and 177), and Reasonable Suspicion Training for Supervisors (Part 382).  However, there are also areas of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSA) where training is implied.

Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)

ELDT has been around for many years and will be getting an update in 2020, but the current requirements are found in subpart E to Part 380.

An entry-level driver is one with less than one year of experience. The entry-level driver must be trained on:

  • Hours-of-service and fatigue
  • Driver qualifications
  • Health and wellness
  • Whistleblower protections

Additionally, entry-level drivers must have a certificate that shows they completed the training or the carrier must provide the required training and certificate.

The new ELDT requirements will be in effect on February 7th, 2020 and will require the driver to be trained at an entity (carrier or school) that is on the Training Provider Registry (TPR). This puts the onus on the training facilities to train the drier correctly according to Subparts F and G to Part 380. Training must include Theory (classroom) and Behind-the-Wheel (range and road).  

The driver must pass a test on all the required topics and skills. Furthermore, the driver will not be able to take the CDL skills test until FMCSA has a certificate of completion on file from the training entity. These new requirements apply to anyone that gets their Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) on or after 2/7/20.

Hazardous Materials Driver and Employee Training

Hazmat training is required for any driver that transports hazardous materials and for any other employee that is involved, directly or indirectly, with the transportation of hazardous materials, and must be conducted within 90 days of hire and before doing unsupervised hazmat-related work.

Training needs to be specific to what the employee does - the more involved the employee is in hauling hazmat, and the more dangerous the hazmat is, the more in-depth the training will need to be. 

Instruction must include:

  1. Training on general awareness and familiarization when it comes to hazmat,
  2. Function-specific training based on the employee’s job,
  3. General safety training when it comes to preventing and dealing with incidents,
  4. Basic security awareness,
  5. In-depth security training if the carrier must have a security plan, and
  6. Modal specific training, such as how to drive when hauling hazmat.

Drivers and affected employees must be retrained every 3 years or when the regulations or job function changes. A certificate of training, including a copy of training materials noting the person/company doing the training, should be issued to the driver upon completion.  A Carrier must retain a copy of the training certificate for three years.

Reasonable Suspicion Supervisor Training

Carriers are required to train supervisors on the reasonable suspicion process of driver alcohol and drug use, one hour for each topic.  This includes recognizing and documenting the signs of drug use and alcohol misuse, as well as company procedures for conducting reasonable suspicion testing.

The supervisor only needs to be trained once. However, if your supervisors don’t use the knowledge and skill they learned in the initial training frequently, consider doing refresher training in this area on a regular basis.

Implied DOT Training Requirements

Parts 390-393 and Parts 395 and 396 do not have training requirements proscribed in detail but do imply that training is necessary. Let’s look at these regulatory areas starting with Section 390.3(e):

Every driver and employee shall be instructed regarding, and shall comply with, all applicable regulations contained in this subchapter,

More simply stated, the driver needs to understand the federal motor carrier safety regulations. What the regulation does not specifically state is what the instruction needs to look like, the frequency of instruction, or the testing of knowledge. What is implied though, and what will be looked for during an audit or compliance review is if a carrier has a safety training program in place.

Two critical areas included in the above regulations are driver qualification and hours-of-service.  These areas carry the potential of severe consequences and you’ll want to make sure your drivers understand the rules and what you require of them.

Additionally, Part 391 requires that drivers must, by way of training or experience, be able to safely operate the vehicle assigned to them. If the driver does not have the experience (based on a background check) you’ll need to demonstrate that the driver was trained to operate the vehicle safely. Here again, the regulations do not specify how the driver is to be trained, or who must provide the training.

A good way to show compliance is to document the training. All documentation should include the five “W”s:  what, when, where, who, and why. It’s critical that you are able to prove that the driver had the necessary training and/or experience. Due diligence can be shown by ensuring:

  • The driver’s previous experience is noted on his or her application and that it is verified, and
  • That all your training is correctly documented.

Finally, Parts 393 and 396 require that all drivers be “conversant” on the vehicle and vehicle inspection requirements. While this requirement is vague, it seems to imply that a company should train drivers on vehicle requirements and inspections.

Your drivers are your day-to-day safety mechanism when it comes to preventing unsafe equipment from being operated on the road. If they do not know the rules you greatly increase your odds of an unsafe piece of equipment being operated on the road.  If you want more guidance, download our Driver Inspections: Critical Vehicle Maintenance Practices whitepaper.


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