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Do truck driving training programs focus enough on safety?

velocidad del camión. Camiones en entrega de la mercancía

Illinois motorists put a lot of trust in the other drivers with whom they share the roads on a daily basis. This trust extends to those who drive large commercial trucks. However, a new study performed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may indicate that the trust motorists extend to commercial rig drivers may be misplaced due to the inadequate training these drivers receive at programs they enter prior to licensure.

 Inadequate programs

In order to receive a license to become a commercial motor vehicle driver, truckers must first pass a test to prove their competency and ability. While testing and issuing commercial drivers licenses are federally regulated, the training a driver receives prior to testing is not. Because of this, many drivers receive instruction geared more toward passing the CDL test, and less on how to safely operate their truck.

The study

The FMCSA study examined how different truck driving programs teach or fail to teach new drivers how to safely operate their trucks. Researchers evaluated those who underwent the following training:

  • Conventional training – Students receive 104 hours of class time and 44 hours of behind the wheel training. Instruction includes fleet safety and road driving.
  • Simulator training – Similar to conventional training but a portion of the BTW training occurs in a simulator.
  • Informal training – All training occurs in an informal setting, usually from a friend or family member that may or may not be certified as a trainer.
  • CDL-focused training – Similar to conventional training, but compressed and specifically geared to prepare drivers for licensure.

Drivers were tested at the DMV prior to receiving their CDL, on the road at the Delaware Technical and Community College testing facility, as well as in a simulator.

 Findings

 The study found that there is no significant difference between conventional and simulator-trained safety scores, while both types of training yielded higher scores than found in those who had undergone informal or CDL-focused training. In many instances, informally-trained drivers performed better than those from CDL-focused programs. This indicates that many drivers who undergo testing-specific training are improperly prepared for the demands of the trucking industry and are not properly trained in how to be a safe driver.

According to the FMCSA, this has led to “driver finishing” programs at some carrier companies, geared toward teaching new CDL holders and new employees how to actually drive their rigs and reduce distractive behaviors. Although these programs are common, not all companies use them, so many truckers enter the roadways with inadequate safety training.  This lack of training may be a significant cause of the large number of truck accidents that occur every year. In 2012, these accidents killed nearly 4,000 and injured another 104,000 people.