New CDL requirements proposed by federal safety agency

West Virginians are injured each year in accidents involving commercial vehicles, and these crashes are sometimes blamed on inexperienced or poorly trained drivers of those vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is tasked with ensuring that those who drive semi-tractor trailers, buses or tankers are capable of safely handling the large and heavy vehicles at their command, and the safety agency has proposed a more thorough curriculum for those hoping to earn a commercial driver's license.

The new curriculum, which was proposed by the FMCSA on March 4, combines classroom time with practical training behind the wheel. Novice commercial truck drivers will spend at least 30 hours practicing in order to meet the proposed requirements, and at least 10 of these hours must be spent on courses specially designed to test trainees in a variety of emergency situations. Classroom sessions will cover general road safety topics as well as commercial vehicle safety systems and instrumentation.

The proposals will be sent to the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget for approval after a 60-day period during which members of the public are invited to make comments and suggestions. If the proposed measures are approved by the White House and the DOT, they will be published in the Federal Register. Proposals of this type are generally implemented three years after being published to give logistics companies the time they require to adequately prepare.

While measures designed to improve road safety should be welcomed, they cannot be expected to eliminate all human error. Truck accident victims frequently suffer life-changing injuries, and personal injury attorneys may initiate litigation on their behalf against truck drivers or trucking companies that have behaved negligently. The companies may face lawsuits of this type when they fail to adequately repair or maintain their vehicles or when they hire drivers that lack the credentials and training required to perform their duties safely.

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