Commercial truck drivers adhere to strict, federally-required training regimens. This is a necessity because of how dangerous commercial trucks are to use. Much of their safety comes down to adequate training, but a major carrier has received a key exemption from those training standards.
Backseat driver trainers
Under current rules, trainee drivers must have an experienced CDL-holder sitting next to them while operating the vehicle. This training requirement intends to allow for a “second set of eyes” on the road as the less experienced driver learns.
However, Werner Enterprises, one of the largest trucking companies in the US, has received an exemption from that training requirement. Inexperienced drivers will still have a supervisory driver in the vehicle, but they no longer must be in the front seat.
Why does the seat matter?
The reasons for this relate to inefficiency and truck driver law. As it stands now, the driver in the front seat would register as “on duty,” meaning they would not be allowed to drive when the trainee had finished their shift due to limits on driver hours per day. By allowing them to sit elsewhere and not be “on duty,” they can take over, giving the trainee rest, and continue with the transport.
However, by not having the supervising driver in the front seat, critics argue, the supervisor is effectively no longer supervising. They may be in the “bunk” or any of the other passenger positions in the vehicle. This could lead to situations where the trainee is in trouble they don’t realize and the supervisor won’t be watching.
Will this make the roads more dangerous?
It’s hard to say if the exemption will make driving more dangerous, as the decision is new. However, it does appear to put the trucking company’s profits above the safety of everyday drivers.