Changes in entry-level commercial driving go into effect in February

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 6:34 PM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - The days of learning from your parents or grandparents how to drive a large semi-truck will soon be over.

There’s a new rule starting Feb. 7 that will standardize the process for people to get their commercial driver licenses .The rule would require a formal 4- to 6-week training program in a classroom with a certified instructor.

Many CDL drivers on the roads today got their start learning how to drive big vehicles from family members or friends.

Once they got the skills down, they could go take the test and get certified. From that point on, entry-level drivers must learn in a classroom with certified instructors. That includes school bus and hazardous material drivers.

Associate Professor Phil Steinkamp, from the John Woods Community College truck driving school, thinks the rules could make the roads safer.

“If you have some theory or book training to understand why you do things a certain way, why its important, why its safer, then you’re more likely to follow through and do it well and I think in the long run, it will provide for a safer driver,” said Steinkamp.

This only affects new drivers, however. Anyone who already has their certifications will be grandfathered in.

Some truck drivers and transportation business owners say this adds an additional barrier to an already present truck driving shortage.

President and CEO of Gully Transportation Michael Gully, says he’s been around trucks his whole life. His family was in the trucking business and his father taught him how to drive a truck in the company lot. He says the one-on-one experience was very valuable to him. Gully says he’s had problems with drivers going the classroom route.

“We find very few that are road ready when they come out of school. We have to do additional training and run them with a driver finisher to help smooth them out,” Gully said.

Steinkamp, however, believes that learning theories in the textbook is important for safety before getting behind the wheel.”

“It’s a very broad spectrum of training if you will, it’s not just focused on being able to maneuver the truck,” Steinkamp said.

Steinkamp said the JWCC training school is making changes to make the transition easier.

“We’re going to put the theory online, it’s going to be a hybrid, they’ll do the study and come to class one day a week,” Steinkamp said.

Gully said he’s considering bringing back his driving school, which discontinued a few decades ago, to get new drivers up to speed.

“For years, homegrown drivers were what fueled the industry and as the industry got big there wasn’t enough homegrown drivers to meet the demands so driving schools became populated,” Gully said.

The new rule also includes school bus and hazardous material drivers.

The state will be holding a webinar on Jan. 19 to discuss the new changes.

To Register for this event go to:

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