FMCSA Entry-Level Driver Training Requirements


In this article, we discussed in detail, FMCSA Entry-Level Driver Training. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the United States Department of Transportation regulates the trucking industry in the United States. Their main objective is to ensure maximum road safety in the reduction of road accidents, crashes, fatalities caused by large trucks or buses. Based on the set parameters, they are responsible for keeping records of commercial motor vehicle driver’s safety performance in operations. FMCSA training aims at impacting the drivers with the necessary skills.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created FMCSA’s Compliance to Safety and Accountability  (CSA), to improve the safety of CMV drivers by using a method of evaluation in Safety Measurement System, interventions, and safety fitness determination, these criteria are used to generate a CSA report card.

The CSA scorecard reports the carrier’s level of compliance to safety, gives a rating about where it stands in the industry among companies with similar operations and size.

The three major categories in Compliance, Safety, and accountability CSA are assigned as follows;

  • Safety measurements system – Based on the results of the investigation and their performance on the road, carriers are assessed on their compliance and prioritized for interventions.
  • Interventions – This includes cooperative safety plans, broad investigations, focus on offsite, and letters of warning.
  • Safety Fitness Determination is a system of three phases motor carriers rating which is; unsatisfactory, conditional, and satisfactory.


FMCSA regulations are made to protect road users; passengers and commercial motor vehicle drivers from road accidents and ensure maximum safety. The safety of the public is better achieved when commercial motor vehicle drivers know the actions and their consequences needed to protect the safety of the road-using public.

The drivers are expected to have received training and apply the knowledge from this training to their road use abilities, personal health, vehicle maintenance, alcohol, and drug intake, and also work environment and conditions. Therefore it is very essential that drivers receive training and that their training providers are also properly licensed to make these training effective, employers are obligated to provide training materials for their entry-level drivers before the testing begins and even to the training supervisors.

The agency divided the training instructions into four areas which are equally mandatory for training all new drivers. They are;

1. Driver Qualification Requirements;

The training material under this aspect would cover all Federal rules on the procedures of medical examination, getting a medical certification, required basic qualifications, driver’s responsibilities, and the terms and conditions for disqualification like offenses, and loss of driving permits.

2. Work hours;

Driver’s would get information on the specific driving hours, the limits, off duty requirements for a period, preparations for duty status, and the details of exceptions. There’s training on how to deal with fatigue which can cause accidents so that drivers can be aware of countermeasures to avoid fatalities.

3. Driver’s Health and wellness

The training contents would include health maintenance guidelines for drivers, exercise and diets, drug and alcohol control. Drivers need to take care of themselves for efficiency and safety.

4. Whistleblower Protection

Employees need to know they have the right to address and raise questions about the character and practices of the employer that could be detrimental to the efficiency and safety without being reprimanded or lose their jobs unjustly for being concerned about the overall safety of everyone involved.



The numbers for a rating on an SMS/CSA scorecard are generated from a set of seven guidelines which are referred to as BASICs meaning Behaviour Analysis And Safety Improvement Categories. The seven categories are stated as;

  • Unsafe driving – Taking of improper lanes, inattention, speeding, violation of traffic lights, speeding, and other violations of road use.
  • Driving under fatigue – Based on the hours of service records for drivers, the number of hours is evaluated to see if the driver has passed limits. Over the limits, hours behind the wheels is an indication of fatigue driving.
  • Fitness of the driver – This covers drivers’ records of training, appropriate certifications, medical conditions, and license.
  • Drug and Alcohol Control: This may require a test to determine the amount of alcohol or drug content in the system of the driver
  • Vehicle Maintenance – Violation examples include, incomplete vehicle parts, overloading of vehicles, or mechanical defects.
  • Compliance to safety in handling hazardous materials – How materials termed as hazardous, toxic, or chemical substances are being documented and handled as regarding safety.
  • Crash indicator – Taking into account the patterns of recent accidents recorded and the numbers of involvement.

FMCSA formulated regulations involving drivers of interstate commercial vehicles, trucks, motor coaches, buses, and school buses. These standards are designed to cover four topics specifically made compulsory for entry-level drivers during training. Entry-level drivers of a commercial motor vehicle, CMV drivers with less than one year experience having obtained a commercial driver’s license, CDL in driving commercial motor vehicles across states according to FMCSA.

This regulation was established, July 20th, 2004. This means thàt employers must ensure that all drivers that are hired after this date undergo specific training before they can be permitted to drive a CMV. A period of 90 days was given as grace to all CMV drivers who were employed a year from the date of the enforcement of this regulation, that is CMV drivers who were employed between July 20th, 2003 to July 20th, 2003 must receive this training before October 18th, 2003 unfailingly.

FMCSA Entry-level Driver Training regulations set the minimum qualifications for entry-level drivers, i.e to receive FMCSA training you must;

  • Be a first time Class A or Class B licensed driver with a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
  • Upgrade your valid Class B CDL to a Class A CDL
  • Get a CDL for driving, passenger bus, school bus, hazardous materials, or chemical substance vehicle.


There are cases of exemption from the training as stipulated by FMCSA and they are strictly applicable to drivers who are under Federal Transit Administration. Only drivers who drive transit buses, agencies in the Federal, State, and local government are granted an exception.


Every commercial motor vehicle driver’s employer must ensure that they issue a training certificate to their employees who have received the training.

The driver’s employer should keep a record of the training certificate when completed in the driver’s file with the company. This record should be kept throughout the employment period of the driver with the company and even a year after the driver no longer works with them.

Training certificate must include the following information;

  1. Date of certificate issuance
  2. Name of trainer
  3. Trainer’s mailing address
  4. Name of driver
  5. A declaration by the driver stating that the driver had completed all four categories of training; Driver’s Qualification Certificate, Work hours, Driver’s Health and wellness and Whistleblower protection completely by putting it in writing in this manner:

I _____ has completed all training requirements following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for entry-level drivers certificate training according to 49 CFR 380.503.

  1. The name of the individual attesting that the driver has completed the required training should be stated in print
  2. The signature of the individual that is attesting to the driver’s completion of training.


Obtaining a Federal motor Carrier safety administration requirements is mandatory if you desire to earn more as a commercial motor vehicle driver, many trucking companies offer additional bonuses and incentives, paid time off, paid health insurance to licensed drivers.

Trained Commercial motor vehicle drivers would have the freedom to choose from driving opportunities within a locality, region, or for the long haul, and also decide if they would work with a team or solo jobs.

You also get the opportunity for future career advancements. Certified drivers may be qualified to climb up their career ladder after a few years of driving to positions like supervisors, dispatchers, recruiter, and so on.


-Minimum Standard For Schools: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety has set the minimum standard for Commercial Driver’s License to be determined at the Federal level and not according to each state. To qualify for the training, you have to meet the Federal requirements.

– The training is to be overseen by the Department of Transportation; Training providers must report the hours spent on the road training to the Department of Transportation.

-Schools can certify instructors without them having to register with the Department of Transportation but some states require individual registrations.

– Trainer’s Qualification Requirements: All training instructors are expected to have at least two years of commercial motor vehicle driving experience, a clean Motor Vehicle Record Report (MVR), medical certification for the classroom, and on-the-road training.

-Curriculum Update: There’s an extension in the scope of the curriculum to accommodate more training contents than before, training providers must ensure that they stay up to date in their curriculum

To get the appropriate certification, entry-level drivers, or their employers as the case may be are encouraged to register with a licensed training provider listed under the FMCSA Training Provider Registry.

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