In February, new commercial driver’s license (CDL) operators at departments of transportation from across the United States began participating in a standardized national training program, and they have INDOT to thank. As a result of the new training program, INDOT has created new CDL coordinator positions in all our districts.
Because of increased serious wrecks nationally among new truck, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) three years ago drafted new Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) laws. The goal: Provide minimum training standards for theory and behind-the-wheel training to CDL trainees.
The federal rule stated that all providers of entry-level CDL training must be listed on the FMCSA training provider registry. To be listed on the registry, the lead trainer at each location must certify that the location follows a training curriculum that meets specific criteria for theory and behind-the-wheel training; uses facilities, vehicles, and instructors that meet federal requirements; and more.
In spring 2020, nearly two years before the law was set to take effect, INDOT Statewide Winter Operations Manager Jeremy McGuffey had an idea: What if there was a standardized CDL training program specific to DOTs to meet the new ELDT laws?
McGuffey represents INDOT in Clear Roads, a pooled-fund research program that brings together transportation professionals and researchers from around the country, including 36 state DOTs. He collaborated with his counterpart at the Ohio DOT and presented the idea to the Clear Roads group, which voted it into the research program.
Once a request for proposals was drafted, we went through the selection process, and the group selected the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to create a standardized CDL training program for DOTs. VTTI built from scratch a custom DOT-tailored training program that was compliant with the upcoming federal law change. The customization makes the program more relevant to the specific work that DOT drivers do.
INDOT hired dedicated trainers for each district, a choice that 35 of the 36 state DOTs in Clear Roads also made. INDOT has seven trainers for its six districts. The instructors are responsible for overseeing the entire INDOT training program from start to finish.
Beginning on the second day of their employment with INDOT, new hires with aspirations for a CDL: 1) Obtain a CDL physical, 2) Complete all 30 units of theory/classroom training over multiple days, 3) Score 80% or higher on theory assessment, 4) Score 80% or higher at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ commercial learner’s permit test, 5) Complete all driving exercises in behind-the-wheel training at an INDOT unit parking lot and public roadway, 6) Pass the CDL test at a testing site.
“The program helped me a lot with pretrip and in-cab inspections,” said Crawfordsville District Facilities Repair Specialist A.J. Feltner. “The theory class was loaded with useful information for not only beginners, but also veterans upgrading their CDL. The parking-lot and roads practice greatly improved my odds to pass; I would have struggled otherwise.”