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CDL Driver Training Needs to Improve

Written by John Daniels
March 10, 2022

Many in the trucking industry would agree that getting your CDL is too easy these days. A few quick exams and a bit of driving training and you’re off to maneuver a massive load of freight and metal across the country. Is this because training is so efficient and expedient, or because trucking is easy to pick up in a matter of a few lessons and driving sessions? No. In fact, there’s no such thing as a minimum number of hours behind-the-wheel training required to get your CDL, causing many prospective drivers to enter their careers unprepared.

It’s no surprise that people are expressing concerns about how lenient driver training standards have gotten – After all, mistakes on the road frequently lead to the death of others. And roads are not getting any safer. On the contrary, the number of fatalities involving large trucks numbered 4,895 in 2020, a 33% increase compared to the 3,686 recorded fatalities ten years prior. It’s safe to assume that many accidents caused directly by CMV operators could be prevented with higher standards of training and a preparation for

There’s new legislation, but will it make matters better or worse?

Within the next few months, a pilot program lowering the interstate driving age for commercial motor vehicles will go into effect, allowing thousands of 18 year old drivers to truck long haul. This is, of course, to fight the ‘driver shortage’, which may actually be just a massive retention problem. We can get into that whole topic another day, but maybe a lack of training actually contributes to drivers leaving the profession, not the other way around. Hastily trained, unprepared 18 year olds are A) more likely to stay in the profession long term, B) More likely to get in over their heads and leave the profession, or C) More likely to get into an accident and lose their license due to lack of training and skill. What do you think?

The consequences of sending inexperienced drivers over the road speak for themselves. Each year, innocent people lose their lives because of CDL drivers who did not receive proper training. Such cases not only cost the lives of innocents, but occasionally incarceration for the surviving CDL driver, with charges of vehicular manslaughter frequently resulting in prison sentences well over 10 years. Though some would argue that punishing drivers is warranted, few talk about holding negligent companies accountable for accidents that could otherwise have been prevented through proper training. This is all circumstantial, of course, but important to think about regardless.

Apart from this pilot program, new standards for driver training have been put into effect, but many see them as… not really mattering. Here’s an excerpt from our last blog about this regulation change:

Previously, people who wanted to learn to drive semi-trucks were able to ask family and friends to teach them the basics before taking any skills or knowledge tests. However, it has become more common for drivers to learn how to operate commercial motor vehicles at CDL school to have a better chance of getting a job (many insurances don’t allow carriers to take on drivers with no CDL school training).

The 2022 changes mean that budding drivers will no longer be able to learn from their family or friends or from other existing drivers. If you want to earn your CDL, you will need to be taught by a certified trainer.

Organizations trying to make a difference

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has been pushing for increasing the training standards in the trucking industry for many years. The executive vice president of the OOIDA believes that there is a lack of resources and money being spent to train people in safely operating their CMVs. Aside from the OOIDA, there’s a whole list of organizations that campaign against the lowering of CDL driver age and are proponents of better training and road safety. Here are a few hat you can check out should you want to get involved:

  • Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
  • American Public Health Association
  • Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways
  • Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
  • Road Safe America
  • Truck Safety Coalition
  • Parents Against Tired Truckers
  • Center for Auto Safety
  • Truck drivers and truck crash victims and survivors

The Biden Administration Trucking Action Plan

The Biden administration has recently announced that it is trying to improve driver training as part of its Trucking Action Plan. The plan, announced in December 2021, outlines a variety of proposed improvements to trucking recruitment, training, and retention.

They plan to improve the standard of driver training through registered apprenticeships. These types of apprenticeships would guarantee any company that pays for CDL licensing and training also commits to wage increases over time.

The worry here is that these apprenticeships will do little to change the training landscape. Smaller companies will still be unable to invest into extensive training due to their limited resources. I guess time will tell if these new apprenticeship programs will offer anything beneficial.

Unbreaking Trucking

Inspiring insights for the ambitious driver.

Being able to overcome the challenges of the trucking industry is the key to your professional well-being as a CDL driver.

Staying on top of your game will help you make smarter choices, land better jobs, and have a clearer picture of where your career is heading.

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