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Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) Program: What You Should Know

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

Are you aware of the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) program? The driver shortage is a major challenge for fleets across the country, as the industry is short an estimated 80,000 drivers, and this number is expected to rise to 160,000 by 2030. Compounding the issue is the aging demographic of commercial truck drivers in the United States, with an average age of 48 years old.

To address this issue, fleets are focusing on recruiting younger drivers. In many states, 18-year-olds can now qualify for a commercial driving license (CDL), but they can only operate a commercial vehicle within their state. Once they turn 21, they are allowed to drive interstate. To ensure the safety of new and younger drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has mandated that all new drivers complete the ELDT program, a national baseline safety standard, before testing for their CDL.

Many fleet carriers are becoming certified ELDT training sites to onboard and train new drivers quickly. The ELDT training requirements apply to entry-level drivers who want to obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time, drivers who want to upgrade an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL, and drivers who want to obtain a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time. These requirements took effect for those applying for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) on or after Feb. 7, 2022.

The ELDT program consists of both theory and behind-the-wheel training. The curriculum includes lectures, demonstrations, and computer-based online learning, as well as training on orientation, basic operation, safe operating practices, advanced operations, and non-driving activities such as logging or hauling cargo at a location. Drivers must also score a minimum of 80% on the assessment. Behind-the-wheel training takes place in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on a range or public road. Simulators are not permitted, and drivers are trained on basic vehicle control skills and mastery of basic maneuvers. The trainer determines the driver’s level of proficiency.

Fleets offering training must join the ELDT training registry, allowing drivers to find and connect directly with fleet managers. Instructors must have at least two years of CDL driving and experience pulling trailers to qualify as in-classroom trainers, and behind-the-wheel driver instructors must have two years of experience as a behind-the-wheel instructor. Instructors must keep their own CDL in good standing and provide good quality training. If the FMCSA determines an instructor is not doing their job, they can remove that individual from the training registry.

Young new hires must complete all their training before going to their state licensing department to take a CDL skills test. The trainer must input all relevant information into the FMCSA system within 24 hours of training completion to enable the student to take the test. The ELDT program is essential for ensuring the safety of new and younger drivers and addressing the driver shortage.

In conclusion, the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) program is a critical step towards ensuring the safety of commercial truck drivers and the general public. By implementing a national baseline safety standard for all new drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is helping to address the driver shortage by attracting younger drivers and providing them with the necessary training and skills. Fleet carriers that become certified ELDT training sites are well-positioned to onboard and train new drivers quickly, while instructors who meet the ELDT requirements can play a vital role in preparing the next generation of drivers for success. Overall, the ELDT program is a positive development for the commercial trucking industry and a key component of efforts to address the ongoing driver shortage.

Abby Willroth is a NAADAC-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) located in Central Arkansas.

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