by Sandy Long
Entering the trucking industry presents many problems in adapting to the lifestyle and the difficulty of the job itself. These problems are compounded by there being no clear-cut training regulations in place in the FMCSA, the attitude of many training companies towards their students, the lack of real training done by many so-called trucking schools and the lack of quality trainers or trainers who abuse their positions.
The only current FMCSA training regulations for semi-truck drivers are that one passes the cdl test and for entry-level drivers: § 380.503 Entry-level driver-training requirements.
Entry-level driver training must include instruction addressing the following four areas:
(a) Driver qualification requirements. The Federal rules on medical certification, medical examination procedures, general qualifications, responsibilities, and disqualifications based on various offenses, orders, and loss of driving privileges (
part 391, subparts B and E of this subchapter).
(b) Hours of service of drivers. The limitations on driving hours, the requirement to be off-duty for certain periods of time, record of duty status preparation, and exceptions (part 395 of this subchapter). Fatigue countermeasures as a means to avoid crashes.
(c) Driver wellness. Basic health maintenance including diet and exercise. The importance of avoiding excessive use of alcohol.
(d) Whistleblower protection. The right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer without the employee’s risk of losing a job or being subject to reprisals simply for stating a safety concern (29 CFR part 1978).
[69 FR 29404, May 21, 2004]
So technically, if you can pass a road test, you can go to work driving a tractor trailer. The rub comes in where insurance companies have requirements, though minimal, for training to be provided for entry-level drivers. Without regulations from the FMCSA, these training periods may be with another student without an on-board trainer or be with an on-board trainer for 2-8 weeks at times with another student along too. Some companies with team operations will put two people just out of training together in a team situation, kind of a blind leading the blind situation.
Two organizations are pushing for enhanced training regulations. The Women In Trucking Association is addressing the issue of women who are coerced into having intimate relations by their male trainers, being discriminated against, or intimidated out of the trucking industry by their trainers or even the companies that have initially hired them.
Student WIT members are reporting this type of alleged behavior repeatedly. One woman was allegedly physically attacked last summer by her trainer who had become convinced that he was in love with her. Another woman was allegedly propositioned on the second day of training by her trainer being told she would have to submit to him to continue training. Still another woman had a female trainer who was allegedly taking excessive over the counter drugs and was out of it most of the time, got off of the trainer’s truck early only to allegedly find problems with the company due to her objection to running with a stoned trainer. Many women are subjected to lewd jokes and behavior by their male trainers. Unfortunately, there are not enough women trainers to go around and we have seen above that even women trainers are not at times, the quality they should be.
Women are not the only ones affected by bad trainers and training schools. A young man from Wyoming went all the way through school and was taking his tests before finding out there were such things as log books and then when he asked, the school refused to teach him the HOS regulations. Another man’s trainer had such a bad attitude that the student feared for his safety. The trainer yelled and cussed at him and then took a swing at the student…just because the student scraped a gear on his first day.
OOIDA is pushing Washington D. C. to increase training regulations. Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President of OOIDA had this to say about the regulations and why they need to be addressed. “Training is something we have been working on for a long time and believe it will have significant impact on the value of drivers’ time, and more importantly, on safety for all highway users. It is a matter of raising the level of professionalism of our industry and seeing the correlation between that and highway safety…Drivers are held responsible for almost everything that can go wrong. It only makes sense that the training required should correspond with the responsibilities of the job. Obviously, the qualifications of the trainer are crucial to quality training. FMCSA says they will be releasing a driver training proposal by mid-January. I’m sure it will be an improvement over the non-existent requirement we have now, but I’m also sure we and others will need to point out areas that need improvement.”
It makes no sense to regulate trucking into the ground on the issue of safety while leaving the basics of trucking safety, that of the training of drivers, to remain inadequate or not addressed at all. One would think that companies, who pay tremendous amounts for insurance would want to train their entry-level drivers adequately, instead they push them through their system quickly for the most part to keep the trucks moving. The companies seem to be working on the percentage idea of training, if they hire ten students and only two kill themselves due to inadequate training, then the other eight are still making money for the company. The only way to get companies to adequately train is by getting the FMCSA to put in place comprehensive training requirements for schools and for the companies and their trainers, and then enforce those regulations rigorously. Let us hope it happens sooner than later!
Ya’ll be safe!