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Industry Leaders Seek to Exceed Proposed Federal Truck Driver Standards with PTDI Course-Certified Programs

Alexandria, Virginia: 

Whether private or publicly funded, or even a tribal business, schools that recently received Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) course certification/ recertification are applauding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed truck driver training standards. Directors from Juneau to Houston see the federal rulemaking on entry-level driver training as a necessary step for safety in the industry. 

“With the truck driver turnover, carriers are taking drivers from anywhere,” said Ron Boyke, site coordinator at Baker College of Cadillac (Michigan), one of the schools that received PTDI course recertification. After visiting a 15-day driver training program in Florida recently, Boyke noted, “I know why the federal government is coming down on industry regs. How can you get familiar with driving a truck after only a few weeks? When the FMCSA standard comes into play, it’s going to affect these types of programs.”

As the executive director of the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools and one who served on the federal committee for the proposed rulemaking, Martin Garsee agrees that “many who call themselves truck driver training schools will not be able to meet federal requirements. It definitely raises the bar for a large majority of the schools.”

Garsee is also director of transportation training at Houston Community College, which recently received PTDI course recertification. He notes that although the rulemaking doesn’t require PTDI’s 44 hours behind the wheel, it has adopted much of the content of the PTDI curriculum. “We made the curriculum robust in the classroom, range, and road so that when a person successfully completes this course, they will be a safe driver.”

And safety is what it’s all about for Garsee. “I’m all for free market and capitalism,” he added, “but this is serious business when you put a person out on the highway.  My family goes on the road and drives in traffic and we positively want people to be properly trained.”

At All-State Career School, in Lester, Penn., where their Advanced Tractor Trailer Driving course received recertification, Kelli Travers, associate campus director, agreed.  “The training standards proposed by FMSCR are long overdue.” By setting a minimum number of hours and a required training curriculum, Travers said, “The industry will be able to employ quality graduates, which will increase safety and efficiency.” 

With schools in Juneau (PTDI course recertification) and Ketchikan (initial certification), the Vocational Training and Resource Center (VTRC) in Alaska is unusual in that it’s a tribal business, serving students in remote areas, offering a full Web-based curriculum for the classroom portion of the course. But long before the NPRM, safety was one of the major reasons Laird Jones, VTRC manager, sought PTDI certification for his programs. That, and the PTDI recognition. “Most students find local employment before they even finish the program,” Jones said, “but a number of people want to go beyond Alaska, and with the PTDI recognition, they land a job right away.”

As far as continuing with the more rigorous PTDI certification process, “even after the federal regulations are in place, we will continue with the PTDI course requirements,” Jones said.

All four directors emphasized that, despite the fact PTDI exceeds the minimum FMCSA requirements, they will continue to allocate time and resources to obtaining PTDI certification. Reputation is a key factor in their decision.

 “Prospective employers will understand that we meet or even surpass PTDI standards,” Boyke said, of his desire to remain PTDI course certified. “As a higher learning institution, we don’t want to just meet the minimum. Baker College is second to none in Michigan.” 

 “PTDI has a certification process that is rigid and robust — a process that All State Career School has used for many years with great results,” Travers explained. “We have set the standard of training, and will continue to do so, well into the future, using these PTDI processes.”  

For Garsee, who is well recognized in the industry, it’s a matter of being willing to have his school scrutinized. “A lot of people say ‘we follow the PTDI standards,’ but then they don’t put themselves out there to be certified. It’s different when you actually go through the [PTDI] process.”

“This is our third time to be course certified, so in my mind, we don’t want to give this up,” Garsee added. “The federal rulemaking does not change my opinion of PTDI and it doesn’t change my motivation to support PTDI.  I see PTDI as doing everything right, and I want to be part of that.”

Recently, John Lyboldt, Truckload Carriers Association president, asked safety directors and CEOs in a meeting if safety and security has a direct correlation to driver turnover.  Unanimously, the response was “definitely.”  Training to PTDI standards – which can help potential drivers understand lifestyle and work demands – is one way to reduce driver turnover in the first 90 days and beyond.