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Who is the authority over Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training?

Understanding the requirements is where the confusion often begins. Allow us to help you navigate the obstacles to eliminate the confusion. First understand that there are two factors to consider: Federal and State Governments. The first factor is the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), specifically through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The second factor is the State’s Driver’s Licensing Agent or Department of Motor Vehicles (SDLA or DMV).

While the State’s SDLA or DMV agency is the authority over the actual CDL written and skills exams and permits, CDL issuance is overseen by the State’s adherence to a minimum set of criteria set forth by the FMCSA, dubbed as the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) program. Each state may add further restrictions to the FMCSA’s program, but it cannot be less restrictive. Such restrictions can include the curriculum and training providers.

What does the FMCSA Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) curriculum consist of?

  • Theory – CDL Candidates must pass a written exam issued by the training provider, which is separate from the state’s permitting exam, with a minimum passing score of 80%. The original idea behind this theory training was to educate and prepare the CDL Candidate to sit for the state’s written permit exam.

  • Range Skills – CDL Candidates must demonstrate proficiency in a two (2) part Range Skills exam: Pre-Trip Inspection, and Backing skills, such as Straight-Line Backing, Offset Backing, Alley-Dock/90 Degree Backing, and sometimes, Parallel Parking. These exams are graded on a point system, where the candidate must accurately identify at least 80% of the Pre-Trip Inspection components. Further, they may not accumulate more than 12 points on the Backing Skills.

  • Road Skills – CDL Candidates must demonstrate proficiency in driving the class of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) that they are seeking to be licensed in, through a series of on-the-road maneuvers that concentrates on negotiating turns, curves, urban and rural driving, traffic control devices, rail-road crossings, emergency stops, and so on. In this exam, the CDL Candidate may not accumulate any more than 30 points.

What is the FMCSA Training Provider Registry (TPR) and a Training Provider’s qualifications?

Federal requirements state that in order to qualify as an authorized FMCSA ELDT Training Provider, an entity must be registered as a Training Provider in the TPR. In order to do so, they must qualify by:

  • Holding the same class CDL in which they train, for a minimum of 2 years.
  • Present certified training curriculum.
  • Be approved and licensed through state agencies.

However, depending on the State, you may have to also be State certified and licensed. For example, in the State of Florida, all CDL Schools and all CDL Instructors must also be State certified and licensed, but they follow the same curriculum as the FMCSA.

What is the process to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)?

  1. Verify CDL Candidates qualifications. A qualified CDL Candidate will be able to pass a DOT Physical and Drug Screen, have a clean driving record, have no criminal background, and be of proper age (18 for Intrastate, 21 for Interstate).
  2. Obtain DOT Medical Card. Before taking any exams, the CDL Candidate will need to obtain a DOT Physical from a Certified and Registered Medical Provider, which includes a DOT Drug Screen. (Medical Marijuana is strictly prohibited, and certain medications may also disqualify.) Once passed, the Medical Provider will issue a Medical Examiner’s Certificate.
  3. Study for and Schedule Written Exam at the SDLA/DMV. Once your CDL Candidate is registered with us, we give them access to our online LMS to study for the State Written Exams. The class of CDL which they are working towards will determine which exams they must take. All classes of CDLs will require the General Knowledge exam. Class A will also require the Combinations Exam, and if the equipment they are being licensed for has Air Brakes, they will also be required to take the Air Brakes Exam. Additional endorsements should also be added at this time.
  4. Obtain Permit. Once the State Written Exam(s) are passed, the CDL Candidate will be issued a Permit for the class CMV they will be licensed for including any endorsements. The CDL Candidate must have both the Permit and DOT Medical Card on their person at all times during training, along with their regular driver’s license.
  5. Commence Training. Once the CDL Candidate has their Permit, they must hold it for a minimum of 14 days before they are legally permitted take the final state exam. During this time we will be conducting training based on the program of instruction.
  6. Confirm Proficiency. Once the CDL Instructor determines the CDL Candidate is proficient in all aspects of the required training, their training scores will be uploaded to the FMCSA TPR. There are three (3) areas where proficiency must be certified: Theory, Range Skills, and Road Skills.
  7. Schedule Final State Exam. After the CDL Candidate’s scores have been recorded in the FMCSA’s TPR, they will then be eligible to take the Final State Exam at a Third-party Administrator (TPA). The TPA will require a minimum of 48 hours to schedule the exam, which will be broken into three (3) parts: Pre-Trip Inspection, Backing Skills, and Road Skills. The CDL Candidate will need to pass all three parts in order to obtain the CDL.
  8. CDL Issuance. Upon passing the Final State Exam, the CDL Candidate will return to the SDLA/DMV to have their CDL issued.

Does the State of Florida have criteria for CDL Schools and Instructors?

Yes! The State of Florida requires that a CDL School’s Instructors not only be qualified under FMCSA guidelines, but also require a fingerprinted background check and additional certification courses be taken before Instructor licensure can be issued. But not all traditional brick and mortar schools have certified, licensed instructors as required by Florida law. We however, will furnish you proof that we are!

Here is a reference link to the State of Florida’s statute regarding CDL schools and instructors requirements: F.S. 32.488

How are you different from traditional brick and mortar CDL schools?

What traditional brick and mortar CDL schools don’t tell you is that the FMCSA does not require a minimum set time frame for training. These traditional schools establish a set number of hours, as to establish an industry standard, to justify charging a higher rate. The Candidate’s proficiency is determined by the Certified CDL Instructor, not by the number of hours they have clocked in training. Some CDL Candidates will learn faster based on their background, experience, and comprehension.

The Federal and State governments do stipulate that the permit holder must retain their permit for at least 14 days before they can be tested, but that does not mean they have to have a certain number of set training hours. We do not hold back a CDL Candidate just to make up a pre-determined set of hours. If they have proven proficiency and have met the permit requirements, then we get them tested and back to work. We realize the value of why they sought, or moreover, why the company sought to get them licensed in the first place – quality of work. This creates more time for us to spend individually with those CDL Candidates who may struggle with a particular maneuver and need a little more attention, thus improving the overall success rate of your employees.

Speaking of quality, one of the reasons why traditional brick and mortar schools have set a number of training hours is because they often have oversized classes. The ratios at which they teach are often 8 Students to 1 Instructor, or even higher! This creates unnecessary wait time for students to have their turn practicing behind the wheel in order to obtain that school’s required hours. Thereby forcing traditional brick and mortar schools to use those extra hours to get the same results. We do not agree that long instruction hours quantifies quality instruction.

ELDT Academy maintains a strict 4 Students to 1 Instructor policy. We do not overcrowd classes. This provides for more individual attention, more quality seat time, and more intensive instruction. Training hours of the CDL Candidate can only be measured by physical behind-the-wheel time that the student actually performs. Waiting for one’s turn is not behind-the-wheel time. A school may advertise a 160 hour course, but the CDL Candidates do not actually train behind-the-wheel for that entire time. Aside from the Theory training hours, much of that is wasted, unproductive time that essentially costs your company money.

I took an online ELDT course, is that not enough?

Since the inception of the FMCSA’s ELDT mandate, the online theory market has exploded. Because of the online availability for theory training, there are many online theory training providers offering these courses and charging hundreds of dollars in most cases, making it seem that they are providing an affordable alternative to ELDT training.

But what they are not telling CDL Candidates, is that their online theory training only accounts for 1/3 of the training required to actually obtain a CDL. Unsuspecting individuals and/or companies purchase this training, pay hundreds of dollars in some cases, and are then left to find out that they also require the Range Skills and Road Skills training. This is where traditional brick and mortar schools cash in. The school doesn’t have to accept another online training provider as legitimate and therefore, the CDL Candidate winds up having to repeat the theory training since schools typically offer one type of package which is normally inclusive of the theory portion.

The only online theory training that does not require Range Skills and Road Skills training and certification are the Hazmat, Tankers, and Doubles/Triples endorsements. Although, the Hazmat endorsement does require theory certification to be uploaded to the TPR.

How can ELDT Academy save us money?

Paying for an overpriced CDL program is not the only consideration. Consider these, too:

  • NO employee mileage expenses to pay for employee travel.
  • NO employee lodging expenses to pay for employee hotels.
  • NO employee per diem expenses for meals.
  • NO inflated tuition and registration costs associated with traditional brick and mortar CDL schools.
  • NO excessive downtime of employees.
  • NO mandated lengths of training, we get them back to work when they are ready, not after.
  • NO idle time, when they should be training.
  • NO worries over whether your employees are being properly trained by CERTIFIED CDL Instructors.

How do I know that ELDT Academy and their Instructors are legit and legal?

Now you are performing due diligence! Great question!

  1. You can verify we are an authorized Traveling Provider with the FMCSA directly on their website! Check the FMCSA TPR, click on the Traveling Provider tab.
  2. You can find us on the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) website, look under Polk County, or call 850-617-2598 and ask. We are School License Number 5048.
  3. Instructors are required to carry their Instructors license when they are training. Our Instructors will always have this document on them for examination.

What is Contract Training?

The process is fairly simple:

  1. We conduct a site visit to verify adequate training space is present.
  2. We establish a custom road training route.
  3. We establish your individual training needs, and develop a training plan.
  4. We establish your student roster and get them permit-ready through our online Learning Management System (LMS). *In-person theory training can also be arranged.
  5. Once your CDL Candidates have completed the permitting process and have their Medical Card, we commence training.
  6. Once your CDL Candidates are proficient, we help schedule state testing with a third-party examiner in your area.

This model of training requires the following:

  • Use of YOUR company vehicle, which must be road worthy and have a passed an FMCSA Annual Inspection, current registration, and General Liability Insurance.
  • Have an adequate training area (minimum approximately 300′ x 100′), that is flat and preferably paved.
  • Have a minimum of two (2), but not exceed four (4) CDL Candidates, per Instructor.

Why can’t other CDL Schools offer the same mobile training?

The short answer is: “Yes, they can.” But consider this:

  • Most will not do so without requiring you to have a more robust minimum roster to justify taking an Instructor off their campus, who could otherwise instruct larger classes at their school.
  • Most schools do not employ extra Instructors that they can spare. Does your company employ extra employees that are not guaranteed work?
  • You will still pay their higher rates, plus the Instructor’s travel costs will typically be passed on to you.

Our mobile model is designed to keep costs low and to pass those savings on to you!

What makes ELDT Academy’s Curriculum and Instructors better?

We don’t just hire anyone with a CDL and call them an Instructor. Not only do we follow the strict FMCSA and State guidelines that qualify an Instructor, but we also verify our Instructors have worked in the trucking industry. A good Instructor will appreciate and understand the importance of a good education, be excited about their career, and pass on valuable tips and techniques that only real-life experience can teach. Not just to teach from a book, video, or slideshow.

Our curriculum is the same certified curriculum that other schools are required to teach, however, we don’t stop there. We don’t just teach what they need to know, we also teach what they should know!

Frankly, over the years, the curriculum requirements have been watered down in an effort to make obtaining a CDL easier to get. That’s not always a good thing, especially for an employer. There are other topics that used to be covered that should still be covered. We also put training into a hands-on approach. Many people are visual learners. Instead of sitting in a classroom reviewing diagrams and videos, we get them right in front of the vehicle, where they can receive direct, personalized attention.

How long does ELDT Academy’s training normally take?

There is no defined answer to this question because we base training on individual comprehension and proficiency, not on a predetermined requisite of hours. Many CDL schools offer a 160-hour training program, but that does not mean they are getting 160 hours of actual training.

We keep our classes small with a 4 Student to 1 Instructor ratio because it allows for individual, personalized training, more seat time, and a higher quality of education.

We offer up to 160 hours for a Class A CDL, and up to 80 hours for a Class B CDL. Additional endorsements are typically incorporated into their training within those same time frames. If endorsements are purchased as stand alone programs these can be completed in as little as 8 to 16 hours.

However, if a CDL Candidate is proving proficiency before those time frames, we do not believe on holding them back. Likewise, if a CDL Candidate needs more attention, we will train them for as long as they need. In such event, additional training fees may apply.

What costs are not included in ELDT Academy’s training?

Basically, the same fees a CDL Candidate would expect to pay at any other CDL school, would still apply. Some traditional brick and mortar schools may include the Final Exam fees, if they are also an approved Third-Party Administrator (TPA).

  • Initial State permitting fees. (Est. $30)
  • DOT Physical & Drug Screen (Est. $50 to 100)
  • Final Exam fees by a 3rd Party Examiner. (Est. $200 to $600)
  • Final State Licensing fees (Est. $85)