The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a new rule concerning truckers who operate on U.S. highways. According to a report on The Journal of Commerce Online, beginning July 20 entry-level drivers operating in interstate commerce must receive training in four areas: driver qualification requirements, hours of service, driver wellness, and “whistleblower protection” for drivers who question safety practices of employers.

The rule applies to all drivers who began operating a commercial vehicle after July 20, 2003. The mandated training must be completed by October 18, 2004. The rules also require that drivers be given a certificate or diploma, a copy of which must be kept in the driver’s personnel or qualification file.

The new training rules follow the trucking hours-of-service rules implemented earlier this year. The training rules will apply to a large number of new truck drivers, as the American Trucking Association expects that about 100,000 drivers will have to be added yearly in order to keep up with the need of trucking operations.

Given the particular challenges of truck drivers’ work conditions, this training requirement gives employers the opportunity to address important health and safety issues that can benefit their bottom line, according to Anneke Heitmann, Ph.D., of Circadian Technologies. For example, the FMCSA requires that the training area on hours-of-service needs to also include education on fatigue countermeasures as a means to avoid crashes, and driver wellness training must include information on basic health maintenance, including diet and exercise and substance abuse.