Two men shaking hands by semi trucks
Any driver knows how important it is to be safe on the road. Truck drivers know this better than anyone. That’s why truck driver safety training is required for any CDL truck driver. Truckers have to take a lot of things into consideration when they are on the road. They may haul hazardous materials, live animals, expensive equipment, groceries, and other important goods.

There are certain training requirements and certifications they need to have just to haul some of these items. But as of February of this year, new drivers must complete an Entry-Level Driver Training program.

Truck Driver Safety Training Topics

Sheet of yellow notebook paper saying truck driving 101 for truck driver safety training

Theory Curriculum

  • Common safety
  • Inspection violations
  • Hours of service
  • Driver fatigue
  • Whistleblower protection
  • Driver qualification
  • Jackknifing and emergencies
  • Identification and diagnosis of malfunctions

Drivers must show proficiency before taking the CDL test, and they just score 80 percent or higher on the theory curriculum test. There is also a portion of the training that requires range training and public road training. The required time length for this training varies by state. The instructors assess driver proficiency in these areas. During range training, instructors teach drivers on a private driving range rather than public.

Behind-the-Wheel Curriculum

Range Training

  • Pre-trip, en route, and post-trip inspections
  • Alley Dock Backing (45/90 degree)
  • Coupling and uncoupling
  • Off-set backing
  • Parallel parking (Sight side and Blind side)
  • GOAL (Get Out and Look)

Public Road Training

  • Curves at highway speeds
  • Interstate and highway entry and exit
  • Hours of Service requirements
  • Night operation (proficiency assessment required)
  • Hazard perception
  • Pace management
  • Safe driver behavior
  • Communications and Signaling
  • Extreme driving conditions

Upon completion of the program, the training provider must submit the certification information to the FMCSA. The information is required by midnight on the second business day after the driver completes the training. The state departments receive the information as well.

Program Guidance

Drivers must understand the FMCSA safety regulations and requirements to maintain a good driver safety record and PSP Score. Keeping informed on the safety standards they’re held to is an important part of a driver’s job and the administration sets clear expectations. The FMCSA holds drivers accountable for the BASICs. These are the 7 Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories. The categories detail items like Unsafe Driving, Vehicle Maintenance, and Driver Fitness.

The goal of organizations like FMCSA is to keep drivers educated on safety issues so they can better prepare their trucks, properly conduct pre-trip inspections, and operate the truck and load safely. According to the most recent Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Annual Roadcheck, conducted each May, the 2021 Roadcheck revealed top safety violations.

These included violations of:

  • Brake Systems
  • Tires
  • Lighting
  • Hours of Service
  • Loading

With an influx in delivery needs, a shortage of CDL truck drivers, and increased demand, long-haul truckers, and fleet managers are feeling the pressures of getting loads delivered quickly and safely. Because of the many changes in traffic and the trucking industry itself, the Department of Transportation created the ELDT truck driver safety training program as a way of standardizing training requirements. This program has been in the works for decades but ruled on a few years ago.

This gave the DOT and states time to plan and implement the program features. The program helps to ensure drivers are receiving the same skill and safety education and meet the minimum training requirements to get a CDL. While the ELDT Truck Driver Safety Training program is beneficial for all CDL truckers, not every driver must take part.

The training is only required for those who, on or after February 7, 2022, are:

  • First-time applicants to a Class A or Class B CDL.
  • Those seeking to upgrade their Class B to a Class A.
  • Those seeking endorsements for Passenger, School Bus, or Hazardous Materials.

CDL Truck Drivers must complete the training in order to test and apply for their CDL or endorsement test. The FMCSA must receive a certification of completion from an authorized training provider found on their website. They must have this document prior to the driver taking the CDL or endorsement tests.

Drivers don’t have to complete the program if they received their CDL prior to February 7, 2022. Also exempt are military drivers, farmers, and firefighters. The FMCSA offers a wealth of information and materials covering all multiple safety topics and concerns. These are valuable resources that accompany the truck driver safety training, but it doesn’t take the place of an instructor-led course.

The truck driver safety training is available:

  • In-person
  • Online
  • Via Mobile

Regardless of their fleet manager’s responsibility to their drivers and trucks, the FMCSA holds the drivers responsible for their loads. The ELDT is in place to equip drivers with the skills necessary to operate their vehicles safely, manage their loads carefully, and avoid vehicle and road-related safety issues. The cost of the truck driver safety training programs varies, and fleet managers and carriers may even pay the fee as a hiring bonus or recruitment effort. Drivers may also see an insurance benefit after completing the program.

Semi truck tipped over.

According to the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System, across the U.S. there were 151,028 crashes involving large trucks from January 1, 2021 to November 30, 2021. Of these, there were 4,662 deaths and 70,990 injuries. This shows the significant vulnerability of smaller vehicles, since semi-trucks are much taller, higher off the ground, weigh much more than passenger vehicles. Truck braking is a common factor in crashes as well. The truck driver safety training program covers how to best avoid crashes, preventative measures, and much more.

Truck Driver Safety Training Benefits

The FMCSA believes the ELDT program enhances the safety of truck driver operations. By implementing this truck driver safety training, drivers and carriers will receive safety and non-safety benefits.

Safety Benefits

  • Improvement of task performance
  • Reduction in crash frequency and severity
  • Driver health and wellness

Non-Safety Benefits

  • Fuel efficiency practices
  • Speed and space management
  • Reduction in maintenance and repair

Schools or fleets registered with the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry system must teach the ELDT program. Among other things, truck driver safety training program instructors must follow a curriculum and have at least two years’ driving experience. To register, an instruction and/or school needs to set out specific information.

Registry Materials

  • Curriculum plan, instructor names, facility, vehicles and equipment to be used, and record-keeping strategy;
  • Proof that state education requirements are being met;
  • Average training hours and cost estimate.

Further, special endorsements have their own training requirements.

Passenger (P) – Training on 24 topics, including management of cargo and passengers and vehicle orientation.
School bus endorsement (S) – Training on 17 topics, including danger zones use of mirrors, and school bus security.
Hazardous materials (H) – Training on 13 topics, including loading and unloading, emergency response procedures, routes, and route planning.

Woman in semi truck

The strict criteria in the program will help ensure quality drivers are being safe on the road. Which helps keep everyone safe on the road. As a fleet manager, your drivers affect your company’s insurance, scores, and livelihood. By assisting them with their truck driver safety training and supporting the standards for safe driving, you help foster a connection and develop a quality driver and employee.

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