Farm Progress

TRUCKS Act provides regulatory relief to small trucking businesses

Custom harvester-supported new Senate bill allows states to exempt certain drivers from new ELDT requirements.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

September 22, 2022

5 Min Read
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UNFAIR ADVANTAGE: Senators ask Biden administration to challenge at WTO India's wheat and rice domestic support. USDA NRCS Montana

At a time of a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers, new legislation introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., looks to lower Obama-era regulations requiring additional training for truck drivers for the ag sector or smaller businesses.

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that set in motion a new rule that created a requirement for Entry-Level Driver Training. The final rulemaking went into effect earlier this year. All new drivers who wish to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License must now complete ELDT.

Additionally, this requirement is costly and time consuming, according to a statement from Rounds’ office. ELDT training classes range from $450 to $8,500, depending on the trainer, and can take anywhere from three days to 20 days to complete.

Rounds’ legislation, the Trucking Regulations Unduly Constricting Known Service-providers (TRUCKS) Act, would allow states to issue a new “Small Business Restricted CDL” so ELDT requirements would not affect small businesses with nine CDLs or less. This would make certain any driver obtaining a CDL without completing the ELDT process could not switch to a larger company and bring a “Small Business Restricted CDL” with them.

Further, it would protect small businesses from these constricting regulations so they can fill their positions in a timely manner and remain competitive in the industry. Additionally, the TRUCKS Act would allow states to exempt employees of agriculture-related industries, school districts and local units of governments (including county, municipal and tribal), from ELDT requirements to obtain their CDL.

“At a time when our nation is in a recession and faced with worker shortages and supply chain issues, American businesses should not have to battle the heavy hand of government,” says Rounds. “We should be working on policies to help our producers and consumers, not hurt them. This legislation eases the burden on small trucking companies, agricultural producers, school districts and local units of government. It also gives power back to the states so they can decide their own rules of the road.”

In 2012, Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. The law includes a provision, which added an additional section to the federal law dealing with CDLs. The provision directed the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations establishing minimum entry-level driver training requirements for an individual operating a commercial motor vehicle.

A 2020 interim final rule was finalized in June 2021 with a compliance deadline of Feb. 7, 2022. The EDLT regulation applies to individuals seeking to obtain a Class A or B CDL for the first time, a Passenger (P), HAZMAT (H), or School Bus (S) endorsement for the first time or if trying to upgrade from a Class B CDL to a Class A CDL or a Class C CDL to a Class B CDL. The Class A CDL allows truckers to drive vehicles that are heavier than what is allowed with only a Class B CDL. ELDT does not apply to those obtaining a Class C CDL.

Prior to the implementation of ELDT, in order to get a CDL, applicants had to do the following: 

  • Obtain a medical certificate (if required for your operation there are some exemptions)

  • Complete the CDL application and pay state fee

  • Provide proof of identity

  • Pass knowledge test

  • Use a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) in a commercial vehicle with another CDL holder for a certain amount of time as determined by the state (minimum waiting time varies by state)

  • Return to State Licensing Bureau for road test – pass the road test

Under this new rule, CDL applicants have to complete the following additional ELDT requirements: 

  • Drivers will be required to attend theory and behind-the wheel classes PRIOR to taking the CDL knowledge test for a CLP

  • Training must be provided by an entity or individual listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Training Provider Registry (trainers self-certify)

  • The State Driver Licensing Agency will be required to verify training has been completed before allowing the driver to go to the DMV to get a CDL (this is done via electronic records uploaded by the trainer)

Reduced regulations welcomed

This legislation is supported by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota and has been endorsed by the U.S. Custom Harvesters.

“While we understand the need for CDL standards, the new rules have a significant effect on local school districts trying to hire bus drivers,” says Wade Pogany, executive director of Associated School Boards of South Dakota. “In rural areas school bus drivers are hard to find.”

JC Schemper, U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., board president and co-owner of Schemper Harvesting, a multi-generation family owned and operated custom harvesting business, welcomed the action. “The additional time and financial investment required by ELDT creates obstacles for harvesters to meet the demand of farmers. We support safety measures, however, when each state has existing strict safety measures and regulations in place that our members comply with, ELDT is unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.”

This bill has been cosponsored by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

“At a time when we already have a shortage of drivers and continued supply chain constraints, the FMCSA’s new training requirements impose higher costs and discourage new drivers from entering the workforce,” says Hoeven. “Our legislation provides important regulatory relief and flexibility by allowing exemptions for agriculture, small businesses and state and local governments. This will help ensure farmers, ranchers and other small businesses, as well as school districts and other government entities have access to the reliable and affordable transportation services they need while ensuring safety on our roads.”

Marshall explains custom harvesters across Kansas are overregulated by federal rulemakers who have never worked on a harvest crew. “The ELDT requirements for new drivers are burdensome to small trucking companies, and this legislation is a commonsense reform to eliminate barriers for small businesses, farmers, and custom harvesters crews who are already hard pressed to find an adequate amount of drivers.”

“With the current supply chain issues and shortage of truck drivers nationwide at a time of tremendous demand, the last thing the transportation industry needs is more overbearing, bureaucratic red tape placed on them by the Biden Administration,” said Cramer. “The TRUCKS Act allows states to exempt certain drivers from new ELDT requirements and provide regulatory relief to small trucking businesses ensuring we have drivers on the road to keep interstate commerce moving.”


About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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