AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are new rules of the road for those looking to get their first commercial driver license, and they come at a challenging time for the industry in Texas and across the nation.
This week, long-delayed federal regulations kicked in, requiring would-be drivers and those looking to upgrade their licenses to complete minimum federal training requirements before being permitted to take certain CDL tests.
The rules, known as Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT), took effect Monday.
They affect anyone applying for a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time, upgrading an existing CDL to a Class A or B, or obtaining a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time.
Delbert Crawford, the director of Austin’s Changing Lanes CDL School, welcomes the changes.
“It will make the roads safer,” he told KXAN. “They should have come out with this rule a long time ago instead of delaying it.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation had to hold off on its rollout of ELDT for two years as the government worked to set up the technical infrastructure to keep track of student certifications and the schools cleared to provide the training.
Roy Hawkins, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Southern Careers Institute in Austin, told KXAN the requirements could “help the industry in the future.”
“Having standardized curriculum and outcomes across the United States for people who are entry level drivers is a very good thing,” Hawkins said.
But training comes with a cost — several thousands of dollars, depending on the school.
“That’s not a small sum of money for a lot of people, said Ken Snipes, the director of Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), the city’s waste management utility.
“People won’t be able to now just walk up to someone who has a truck and say, ‘Hey, can you teach me how to drop your truck?’ Now you will be required to go to a school for formalized training,” he said. “It could pose a barrier.”
Snipes said ARR provides its own training for CDL drivers.
As KXAN has reported, the utility has been dealing with a shortage of drivers and truck operators, impacting some collections services in the city.
“Staffing is problematic across the industry,” he said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of last summer, roughly 33,000 CDL jobs remained unfilled from pre-pandemic levels, and there was already a shortage even before COVID-19.
“It’s not just COVID, there is an aging population in the trucking industry,” Hawkins said. “People are exiting the industry to retire, and there are not enough people coming in.”