Federal regulators have denied a petition by UPS Inc (NYSE: UPS) to be exempted from two requirements of the entry-level driver training (ELDT) final rule after finding the company failed to make a valid safety case for its request.
In its petition filed earlier this year, UPS contended that its own well-established training program effectively trains drivers, but if forced to comply with the rule's specific instructor qualification requirements it would be unable to use at least 25% of its current certified driver instructors, thereby limiting its ability to meet the demand for new drivers.
The company also asked for a five-year exemption from a requirement that every training location be registered separately under the program's Training Provider Registry, claiming it would place a "significant administrative burden" on its in-house training if it were required to register as many as 1,800 UPS locations where a new driver could be trained.
In both requests, however, UPS "has not demonstrated that it would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent the requested exemptions," the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ruled in a decision published Dec. 6.
The agency explained that requiring a driver training instructor to hold a commercial driver's license and have either two years of experience driving a truck of the same or higher class, or two years' experience as a behind-the-wheel instructor, is necessary to establish minimum qualification standards.
"In the agency's judgment, the rigorous instructor training provided by UPS, while laudable, is not a substitute for [commercial vehicle] driving experience," it stated. "UPS therefore fails to provide an alternative to the instructor requirements likely to ensure an equivalent level of safety."
FMCSA also rejected UPS's argument regarding the burden on identifying separate training locations. "The agency needs to know the training location where an individual received ELDT, for example, so that if state-administered skills or knowledge test pass/fail rates appear to be outside the norm for drivers trained at a specific location, FMCSA can follow up appropriately," it stated.
UPS's exemption application received 112 comments, with more than half supporting it. However, four trucking groups — the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, the United States Transportation Alliance and TruckerNation — opposed it.
TruckerNation commented that the concerns raised by UPS have been addressed through negotiated rulemaking and the public comment process, FMCSA noted. "TruckerNation asserted that approving this exemption request would contradict the sound decisions previously made in the ELDT final rule and ultimately undermine the goals of ELDT."
FMCSA recently announced it would be delaying the ELDT rule, originally scheduled to go into effect on Feb. 7, by two years after reviewing public comments responding to a proposal to delay portions of the rule.
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