Entry-Level Driver Training: The Basics

Jill Schultz, Sr. Editor - Transportation Safety 

August 17, 2021

Compliance with the new Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule is quickly approaching. As of February 7, 2022, the education requirements will change for an individual who wants to:

  • Obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL);
  • Upgrade a CDL; or
  • Obtain a passenger, school bus, or hazmat endorsement.

Also changing — the requirements for those who instruct these individuals.

Gone will be the days of a driver-trainee obtaining a learner’s permit, driving with a CDL holder for as little as a few hours, and then taking the CDL road test. The process will become more detailed and will take more time than before.

Under the new requirements, an entry-level driver must, prior to taking the CDL skills test, successfully complete a prescribed program of theory and behind-the-wheel instruction provided by a school or other entity listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Training Provider Registry (TPR).

Class A and Class B CDL Instruction

The rule prescribes 30 specific theory topics in five areas of instruction, including basic operation, safe operating practices, and vehicle systems. The instructor must cover all of the topics.

The rule does not include a minimum number of hours that driver-trainees must spend on theory instruction. An assessment must be used to determine the driver-trainee’s proficiency for each unit of instruction. Driver trainees must demonstrate their understanding of the material by achieving an overall minimum score of 80 percent on the theory assessment.

The rule also prescribes instruction on almost two dozen behind-the-wheel topics, including vehicle controls, shifting, and backing.

The rule does not require a minimum number of behind-the-wheel instruction hours. The driver-trainee is expected to be able to successfully repeat each required maneuver several times. The determination of proficiency is based on the instructor’s professional judgment.


Passenger and school bus. A specific curriculum that includes theory and behind-the-wheel instruction must be completed in order to obtain a passenger or school bus endorsement.

Like the proficiency requirements for Class A and B CDLs, the driver-trainee must have a score of at least 80 percent on a theory exam that covers all of the theory instruction requirements. The driver-trainee must also demonstrate proficiency in behind-the-wheel skills.

Hazardous materials. A specific curriculum that includes theory instruction on a dozen topics must be completed in order to obtain a hazardous materials endorsement.

There is no required minimum number of instruction hours for theory training, but the driver-trainee must complete a theory assessment and receive a score of at least 80 percent.

The Training Provider Registry (TPR)

In order to provide entry-level driver training, a training provider must be listed on the TPR. To be included on the TPR, an entity must meet certain criteria related to curriculum, instructors, facilities, and equipment.

Training providers will need to apply online in order to be listed on the TPR. This application may be accessed at: https://tpr.fmcsa.dot.gov/.

Learn how J. J. Keller® Safe & Smart Driver Training can help you prepare for the new Entry-Level Driver Training Rule — Call 888.473.4638 or fill out the lead form below and representative will be in touch with you soon.

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