Truck drivers play a vital role in the economy, transporting goods across the country. However, they also face unique dangers on the job. In 2020, almost 5,000 people were killed in large truck accidents, and 71 percent of those fatalities were occupants of other vehicles.
While many factors can contribute to a truck accident, driver error is often to blame. This leads to the question of whether or not truck drivers receive adequate training to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). One of the initial barriers that truck drivers face is obtaining their CDL, which, as it turns out, is surprisingly simpler than expected.
Ease of Obtaining a CDL
Obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) is necessary for anyone who wishes to operate a truck. The only two requirements of a CDL are:
- Achieving a score of 80 or more on a written exam.
- Passing a road test.
Written Test - This test covers the basics of truck driving, including road rules, traffic laws, and signage.
Road Test - This practical portion of obtaining a CDL generally takes 2.5 hours and involves a pre-trip inspection (1 hour), a parking test (1 hour) and 30 minutes of actual on-the-road driving.
Some states also require applicants to pass a physical examination to ensure they are physically fit to operate a large vehicle. Once an applicant has obtained a CDL, they must renew it every few years in order to maintain their ability to drive a truck.
No Minimum Hours Behind the Wheel Required
Coupled with the nonextensive requirements of obtaining a CDL, there is also no minimum required amount of experience or hours on the road. Aspiring truck drivers only need a standard driver's license (can be as young as 18 years old) and their CDL to operate a CMV.
In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released training recommendations for new drivers, which included a proposed 30-hour behind-the-wheel requirement. However, when the board passed the final ruling on training requirements in 2016, the minimum behind-the-wheel experience was dropped, with the committee citing that 'no definitive data' proved that on-the-road training resulted in increased safety..
What is the FMCSA Doing?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for ensuring that commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are operated safely. To that end, the FMCSA has implemented several regulations designed to improve road safety. For example:
- Commercial drivers must adhere to hours-of-service rules limiting the amount of time they can spend behind the wheel.
- Drivers must adhere to drug and alcohol testing requirements according to the FMCSA.
- CMV drivers must undergo regular physical examinations to ensure they are physically fit to operate their vehicles.
The FMCSA also takes action against unsafe drivers who violate the agency's rules. Drivers who are found to be operating their CMVs in an unsafe manner can be placed out of service, which means they cannot continue driving until they have corrected the problem. The FMCSA can also revoke a driver's commercial license in severe cases. But these are only safeguards for drivers who are already out on the road.
What Can Be Done?
In recent years, the FMCSA has come under fire for failing to prevent accidents caused by fatigued or distracted driving. Critics argue that the FMCSA has not done enough to crack down on these dangerous behaviors and that more needs to be done to protect the public from careless truck drivers.
To help reduce the number of accidents, the trucking industry should require all new or aspiring truck drivers to complete a more rigorous training program. The program should include both classroom training and extended on-the-road instruction. It's time for the trucking industry to put safety first and make sure all new truck drivers are appropriately trained.
Looking for a Truck Accident Attorney in Albuquerque?
If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, the experienced attorneys at McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry, P.A. can help. We understand the unique challenges that these cases can present, and we have the knowledge and resources to pursue your claim aggressively. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
If you were involved in a trucking accident involving serious damage or injuries, call us today at (505) 405-4441 to schedule a free initial consultation.