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Change is Coming... The New CDL Application Process and What it Means

Upcoming Changes to the DOT's CDL Application Process and What it Means

From inspections and road check to big changes like hours of service and the switch over to ELDs, the Department of Transportation has all sorts of rules and regulations that affect our industry. Now that we all have our ELDs or AOBRDs, the next big change the DOT is making is to the application process necessary to get your CDL. This process will be tricky and take time to get used to, so we think it is best to be prepared! Keep reading to find out more about what you can expect in the years to come. 

When Will Regulations Change?

Technically, the regulations already did change! The rules officially became law on February 6th, 2017. But, like the ELD transition, the Department of Transportation is giving the industry a little extra time to make necessary changes. By 2020 the training standards—particularly a core classroom curriculum and behind-the-wheel trainingfor new truckers will be a requirement. If you're currently in the process of getting your CDL, these rules will not apply. 

One of the major changes is that the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now will have a registry of approved trainers that entry-level truckers must use for the application process. This doesn't mean that companies can't do in-house training or individuals can't train a friend or child joining the industry, but rather it means that they must first become certified to do so by the FMCSA. In addition, Class A and Class B CDL applicants will now have separate standards and there are new requirements for certain endorsements. 

The biggest change to this process will be the core classroom curriculum and behind-the-wheel training. 

Core Classroom Curriculum 

Grab your pen and pencil, because the new CDL classes will cover everything you need to know about trucking. There is no hour limit to the classroom time, the only requirement is that those teaching the class have been properly trained so that they can properly train you in a wide variety of things that may include any of the following:

  • Knowledge of basic vehicle operation—including proper use of control systems, dashboard instruments, signals, and other vehicle communication
  • Ability to perform pre- and post-trip inspections and roadside inspections
  • Understanding of backing and docking/coupling and uncoupling/handling of cargo
  • Overview of emergency situation and post-crash procedures
  • Helpful tips on wellness, trip planning, truck maintenance, hours of service, avoiding distracted driving, Safe Transportation Assistant Act whistle blower, and more  

Behind-the-Wheel Training

The behind-the-wheel training covers many of the same tasks that are covered in the classroom portion of the training. When changes to the CDL application process were first being discussed, there was talk of a requirement that truckers must undergo as many as 30 hours of training behind-the-wheel before they could obtain their CDL.

The 30-hour rule was not part of the final draft of the law. Rather, the FMCSA has ruled that behind-the-wheel training is complete when "all elements of the curricula [are] proficiently demonstrated while the driver-trainee has actual control of the power unit during a driving lesson." Instead of putting a number on the training, the FMCSA simply wants to know that each and every driver has enough training to properly operate their rig.


Potential Affects on the Trucking Industry 

One huge downside to these changes is the cost. The FMCSA estimates "the 10-year cost of the final rule will total $3.66 billion." However, the administration also estimates those costs will be partially offset by a $2.389 billion benefit to the industry. 

In addition, the FMCSA believes that there are other benefits that come from the new application process that will benefit not only truckers, but also trucking companies and the general public. There is expected to be fewer crashes because drivers will be better trained, which leads to less necessary maintenance and repair costs, as well as more efficient truck operation. So while the industry faces a bigger bill up front, the FMCSA claims that in the long run these changes may eventually lead to saved money. 

We remain cautiously skeptical.

Our Concerns

Our biggest concern with these changes is the potential negative effect on recruitment into the industry. With a very long process to getting your CDL it means that good potential drivers will have to wait even longer to get out in their own truck making money. For some prospective drivers this training is certain to be cost prohibitive. Let's hope that more places start promoting scholarships or grants for this training. Some have already.  

While we love the idea of more in-truck training, the reality is that driver training hours require willing participation from trainers. That is a lot of one-on-one time with another person in an industry known for freedom and quiet road time. It will be interesting to see how the industry has to respond in order to cushion the blow of this legislation.

How do you think the industry will respond? Do you think this is a positive move for truckers? Let us know in the comments below!


Want to get started now before the changes to the DOT's CDL application process impact you? Check out the link below to see if this is the right job for you!

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