Do you have a driver training program?” This is one of the first questions asked by an investigator during a compliance review or audit of a motor carrier.

Its may not be easy to answer. The company might not realize that it is a motor carrier, that it operates commercial motor vehicles, and that it is subject to regulations addressing motor carrier safety. When the company comes to this realization, it might not know how training plays a part in compliance.

Motor carriers and commercial motor vehicles

The terms motor carrier and/or commercial motor vehicle bring to mind the 18-wheelers we frequently see barreling down the highway. Though these types of vehicles are subject to regulation, many other types of vehicles also fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

Both for-hire and private operations are subject to the FMCSRs. In general, if your company operates a vehicle or combination of vehicles that is 10,001 pounds or more, you are operating commercial motor vehicles and your company is considered a motor carrier.

Examples of the types of vehicles that are subject to the FMCSRs include (but are not limited to) straight trucks, pick-up trucks with trailers attached, and construction vehicles (dump trucks, cement mixers, etc.).

Other types of vehicles subject to the FMCSRs include any size of vehicle hauling a placardable amount of hazardous materials and certain types of passenger-carrying vehicles.

Training requirements

Unlike many federal agencies that have specific training requirements for the entities under their jurisdiction, the FMCSA has few specific training requirements.

Though the FMCSRs are not specific when it comes to training requirements, having a solid training program demonstrates safety is a high priority within a motor carrier’s operation.

This message of safety and compliance has become even more important with the introduction of Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), a FMCSA safety and compliance program. The goal of CSA is to reduce the number of large truck and bus crashes, injuries, and fatalities on our highways.

CSA identifies drivers and motor carriers that pose safety problems and intervenes as soon as these problems become apparent.

The majority of motor carrier data compiled in CSA’s safety measurement system is collected at roadside inspections. At roadside, your drivers are your company’s representatives. Their knowledge of the regulations and safe operating habits can go a long way in how your company is viewed in the CSA safety measurement system.

From a regulatory standpoint, Section 390.3(e)(2) of the FMCSRs states that every driver and employee must be instructed regarding and must comply with applicable regulations.

So what does this mean? Put simply, it means that a motor carrier must have a safety training program in place and should document any and all training conducted.

Standard topics range from hours of service and vehicle inspection to defensive driving and accident prevention.

A handful of specific educational and training requirements within the FMCSRs are mandated for a motor carrier not hauling hazardous materials. These requirements include:

Entry-level driver training (Part 380, Subpart E) — A driver with less than one year of experience operating a commercial motor vehicle with a commercial driver’s license in interstate commerce must receive instruction in driver qualification requirements, hours of service, driver wellness, and whistleblower protection. Documentation of this training must be maintained in the driver’s personnel or qualification file.

Longer combination vehicle (LCV) training (Part 380, Subparts A through D) — Operators of LCVs in interstate commerce and LCV-driver instructors are subject to minimum training requirements.

A driver who wishes to operate an LCV must successfully complete a driver-training program that includes components addressing both knowledge and skills. The driver must successfully pass a knowledge test and a skills test. Documentation of this must be maintained in the driver’s qualification file.

An LCV classroom and skills instructor must meet certain knowledge and training requirements. Documentation of this must be maintained in the LCV-instructor’s driver qualification file.

Inspector qualifications/training(§396.19 and §396.25) — Individuals who conduct periodic/annual inspections and/or brake inspections are required to have training and/or experience totaling at least one year.

Documentation of the inspector’s qualifications must be maintained by the motor carrier or the facility at which the inspector is employed.

Drug and alcohol training (§382.601 and §382.603) — Employers are required to provide their drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles that require a commercial driver’s license with materials explaining how the employer implements the drug and alcohol testing requirements in Part 382 of the FMCSRs. The materials must also address the employer’s policies and procedures when it comes to meeting these requirements. This information must be presented to the driver prior to the start of drug and alcohol testing.

The driver must sign a receipt stating that he/she received these materials and the employer must maintain this receipt.

All people in a motor carrier operation who are designated to supervise drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles that require a commercial driver’s license must receive reasonable suspicion alcohol and drug training. Supervisors must receive this training in order to determine whether reasonable suspicion exists to require a driver to undergo drug and/or alcohol testing. This training must consist of 60 minutes on alcohol misuse and 60 minutes on controlled substances use. Documentation of this training must be maintained by the motor carrier.

Benefits of training

Though there are few specific requirements when it comes to driver training, a solid program is beneficial to your operation as well as the motoring public. It demonstrates your company’s commitment to safety.