There are no national standards for training new semi-truck drivers.
Here’s why that’s a problem.
Several years ago, I represented Angelah, a young girl with a mild traumatic brain injury.
She had been in a terrible crash.
Her mother was driving. The afternoon was rainy, and the road was wet.
A truck driver failed to take into consideration roadway hazards and struck the family vehicle.
He hadn’t been driving a semi-truck for very long—he was still in training. He wasn’t driving carefully, especially for the weather conditions.
If that young trucker had more experience, he might not have made this tragic decision. He might have slowed down.
I don’t think that the semi-truck driver meant to cause a crash.
I don’t think he climbed into the cab that day thinking his driving could cause a child’s serious head injury.
I don’t think he would make the same bad driving decisions if he could live that day all over again.
I do think it’s likely that this crash had a negative impact on his life, as it did on Angelah’s life.
And I think that more training would have improved his driving skills.
Semi-truck experience matters
New truckers and trainees are statistically far more likely to be involved in a collision.
Yet, there are no national standards for training new semi-truck drivers before they hit the road.
In March 2016, FMCSA proposed a national standard for trucker training, a rule that would require 30 hours of training for a Class A commercial license. That’s the license for drivers operating tractor-trailers over 26,000 pounds … like the truck in Angelah’s devastating crash.
The proposed rule would include a minimum of 10 hours operating a tractor-trailer on a practice driving range.
“Well-trained drivers are safer drivers, which leads to greater safety for our families and friends on our highways and roads,”
– U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
30 hours of training is not an onerous standard.
This issue isn’t especially contentious.
Even the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), an organization known for opposing federal mandates for trucking, cites driver training as a shared top priority with the federal agency.
In Angelah’s case, the trucking company eventually offered to settle her brain injury claim. It was a fair settlement, one that has allowed her to get the ongoing care she needs.
The final rule on national trucker training standards is expected soon.