Does Driver Training Improve Safety?
It might seem an obvious correlation: the more training a driver completes, the better his or her safety record. And, when combined with hours of service, this logic is generally considered to be true in transportation and other industries. In recent months, however, the White House Office of Management and Budget suggests the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s data supporting the argument’s validity is limited, and is requesting further investigation before the adoption of a federal rule outlining driver training standards.
According to the FMCSA website, current entry-level driver training standards necessitate addressing the following four areas:
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.
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. Fatigue countermeasures as a means to avoid crashes.
Driver wellness. Basic health maintenance including diet and exercise. The importance of avoiding excessive use of alcohol.
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.
These current standards help prepare first-time drivers for their time on the roads, but officials question if this training alone creates safer drivers.
In preparation for a review by the Office of Management and Budget, a 26-person committee, the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), has been established to help FMCSA better analyze the data—or, at least, analyzing the cost-benefit correlation between increased training and an improved safety record.
The committee’s findings are considered a critical component in the creation of the FMCSA’s first-ever negotiated federal rule on training standards for entry-level drivers. These findings could also help the administration withstand an in-depth review by the Office of Management and Budget.
But first, the committee needs more data to analyze, with concerns that the lack of data could require the agency to issue a “break-even” cost-benefit analysis, which would work against the adoption of a federal rule. To gather more information in support of these claims, the administration will send out requests for data from within the industry, data that will hopefully demonstrate that those drivers who attended truck driver schools tend to have better, safer driving records.