WASHINGTON — The training departments of three large truckload companies want to be exempted from federal rules for entry-level driver training because they claim it is causing them to be short of both instructors and drivers.

Drivers of the three companies — Heartland Express (NASDAQ: HTLD), Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI) and Millis Transfer (acquired by Heartland Express in 2019) — receive training from Millis Training Institute (MTI), the training division of Millis Transfer.

MTI, on behalf of the three companies, has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an exemption from regulations requiring that a behind-the-wheel (BTW) training instructor have at least two years’ experience driving a commercial motor vehicle or two years’ experience as a BTW instructor.

“MTI has had CDL training since 1991 and has always required our ‘OTR’ [over the road] trainers to have one year minimum experience in order to train our students,” wrote MTI Training Director William Griffin in the companies’ exemption application. “We have an extensive ‘safety evaluation’ process and only those that pass our evaluation process will be allowed to train. We have been extremely successful with this policy.

“At present time, since February of 2022, we have had very little success in getting enough trainers to take and train our students due to the two-year BTW rule, hence the reason we are requesting this exemption.”

Griffin estimated MTI’s 2023 student enrollment for the three companies at 500-700 students.

“We currently only have 131 trainers, so with each trainer spending up to 90 days with a student before letting them go solo, you can see the companies are going to need to turn students away because of the shortage of trainers,” he said.

“If we are denied this exemption, we are all in agreement that our schools would suffer, hence reducing the growth of our companies and therefore reducing the number of safe drivers that we could potentially put on the road with a career in trucking and reducing the shortage of truck drivers.”

According to federal regulations, those applying for exemptions from FMCSA regulations must include in their application a safety impact assessment of the exemption as well as explain how an equal or greater level of safety would be ensured if the exemption was approved.

“We believe our Trainer Evaluation process is second to none,” Griffin asserted in addressing the safety aspect of the exemption.

“Our trainers must have no safety violations, must be able to communicate the importance of safety and demonstrate all aspects of our safety protocols as well. We are certain that our trainers and training will be a positive contribution to highway safety.”

He added, “I have no research reports or technical papers, just a sincere request from a 40-plus-year trucking veteran who is trying to keep our programs running smoothly.”

A 30-day comment period on the application begins when FMCSA formally publishes the request, which is expected on Friday, according to a notice published on Thursday.

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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