Since the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was signed into law in 2012, the FMCSA has been grappling with the best way to go about revamping the entrance requirements for new applicants. A series of listening sessions, including one at this year’s MATS, has brought about a variety of suggestions to implement new-entrant testing for those applying for new authority. With safety as the main motivator, the group discussed countless changes and innovative ideas based on input from many prominent figures, including FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro.
The FMCSA is interested in raising the standards that prospective carriers, brokers, and freight-forwarders must meet before receiving a DOT number. “It has been standard practice if you needed a DOT number you could get as many as you wanted whenever you wanted,” said Anne Ferro, with a new-entrant audit coming as soon as 18 months later. “It has been too easy,” she said.
Time for change
New-entrant proficiency testing is one of the most prominent changes proposed. Drafting a proficiency exam brings about a host of questions that must be answered before it can be implemented. What exactly should new entrants be tested over? The format and content of the test must be decided. The FMCSA must determine who will administer the test. A system of training must be determined.
The question and answer sessions allowed the trucking industry to offer their suggestions about updates to requirements. David Owen, a representative from the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, said it’s “an idea that’s long overdue.” His group has been administering tests for new entrants for close to five years now and offers a training program for those taking the test. Owen’s suggestions included sticking with the current CDL licensing infrastructure for the exams, offering an online practice element for those training for the test, and instituting a $100 fee for applicants.
Tom Weakley, a representative from Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), addressed concerns about the impact of testing on owner operators and small fleets. Weakley was adamant that new-entrants need to be educated on many aspects of trucking beyond FMCSA regulations. Weakley noted the importance of new entrants understanding ideas like budgeting, costs of operation, and establishing a safety management plan.
Another prominent voice at listening sessions concerning new-entrant requirements has been that of brokers. James Lamb, president of the Association of Independent Property Brokers & Agents, expressed frustration over some of the new aspects of the MAP-21 law, claiming that they unfairly target small brokers.
“Much like the broker bond, we believe this requirement is designed to restrict and discourage would-be entrepreneurs from entering the industry and competing with large brokers,” he said, asking that the agency “steer clear of promulgating unreasonable barriers to entry.”
Lamb noted one aspect of the MAP-21 law specifically. The requirement in question calls for brokers to have to have three years of relevant experience before being accepted as a new entrant. Lamb took issue with the fact that the law doesn’t define what constitutes “relevant experience”.
Lamb urged the FMCSA to include sales and support experience outside of the transportation industry as relevant experience for would-be brokers.
“Evidence of knowledge should be based on the understanding of broker regulations and motor carrier safety regulations such as hours of service so they do not engage in actions that would hamper public safety, like force drivers to violate log books,” he said.
Lamb offered a requirement of four hours of training on industry regulations and safety standards as an appropriate solution. He noted that the training could be done by companies already registered with the FMCSA.
As the FMCSA continues to work to make the new-entrant requirements begin to take place, they will have to work hard to ensure that all voices are heard. What’s your take on the new-entrant requirements? What kind of information do you think should be included on a test and what kind of other requirements or training do you think new-entrants should have to meet?
Tags: Anne Ferro
, New-entrant testing
, Truck Driver