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What You Need to Know About ELDT for Bus Drivers


Entry-Level Driver Training is necessary for every new bus operator you train to qualify for their CDL. ELDT went into effect in February of 2022. This training is uniform across the United States, ensuring that each and every professional driver is competent and meets the same standards.

So what does ELDT mean for bussing operations like you?

What Is ELDT?

ELDT stands for Entry-Level Driver Training. It was created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as a requirement for obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The goal of the program is to create safer, more experienced operators and to create uniform standards across the industry.

Here’s how it might affect you.

If you are a company that hires non-CDL drivers and trains them, it is important to know how ELDT impacts you. Prospective drivers are now required to pass a theory and road test.  If your company already suggests a program that incorporates this into its curriculum, you are steps closer to ELDT requirements. In simple terms, not much has to change for commercial drivers, besides enhanced and stricter training curriculums. As for training providers, they must now register with the Training Provider Registry.

Do I Need an ELDT for a CDL Permit?

Almost every commercial driver needs to undergo ELDT. The introduction of ELDT to these drivers addresses a large compliance issue. ELDT alone will not make the roads safer. It takes professionally-produced training and education along with your dedicated team to reduce accidents and injuries. That being said, ELDT provides a solid framework to start with. 

ELDT is a requirement for the following:

  • Obtaining a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time
  • Upgrading an existing Class B CDL to a Class A
  • Obtaining a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous material (H) endorsement for the first time

Though existing CDL-certified operators are not required to comply with ELDT, your company may find a benefit in standardizing your training and safety expectations. It shows your commitment to the professional development of all your operators while helping you make a big impact on your accident and injury numbers.

Get a 14-Day Free Pass to The Bus Safety Course >>>

Current ELDT Requirements

It can be overwhelming to make sure all of your operators are ELDT certified. However, since ELDT regulations are not retroactive, some drivers are exempt from further training such as:

  • Individuals who were issued a CDL or an S,P, or H endorsement prior to Feburary 7, 2022
  • If an individual obtained a CLP prior to Feburary 7, 2022, and obtained a CDL before the CLP or renewed CLP expired
  • An individual who meets at least one of the exceptions for taking a skills test in 49 CFR Part 383

After completing a comprehensive training program abiding by ELDT, you must submit an application to FMCSA, where compliance will be reviewed for certification. If you meet the qualifications, your operators may then continue business as usual on a safer road.

4 Key Elements to an Effective ELDT Program

If you’re a company or school who will be creating CDL-B operators, you need to know what’s required. Here’s some fair warning, though. Just meeting the requirements and complying with ELDT will not get you safe operators. You might be wasting time on an inefficient program that sucks up resources and doesn’t produce results.

These are the four key elements that are required of an ELDT Program and how to make sure they’ll succeed.

Before we continue, it’s important to point out we have a plug-and-play ELDT training program for CDL-B operators. It’s guaranteed to produce safe operators in less time than you could do on your own. You can check that out here.

1. Theory Instruction

Also referred to as “knowledge instruction”, theory instruction provides drivers with the important topics they need to have a full understanding of. Some of these topics include:

  • Traffic laws: There are many simple laws operators overlook and when disregarded can lead to accidents and bigger financial problems. Engraving this framework is vital.  
  • Defensive driving techniques: Driving is one of the most dangerous things we do. It’s the biggest risk exposure your operators face. That’s why they must be educated on defensive driving techniques and principles. Thus, ELDT requires some form of “hazard detection” education in new operator training.
  • Passenger safety: simple as it sounds - you do not want to be the company whose operator put passengers in danger by not complying with safety measures. ELDT requirements dictate that your operators are trained on certain passenger-safety procedures. 
  • Emergency procedures: ELDT requires that operators are taught what to do and how to act in an emergency, such as accidents and road side failures.

Here’s an important distinction: there is no minimum time-requirement for theory instruction in ELDT. FMCSA lays out what needs to be taught, and they require you to give your operators a final exam that they must get an 80% on. They don’t specify what the questions must be on the exam.

Additionally, ELDT does not require that operators learn theory in a classroom setting. We highly recommend you utilize an online training platform that lets you streamline this process, spending less time and getting better results.

We have a program called The Bus Safety Course that tackles a lot of what’s required in ELDT theory with a focus on safety. It provides your operators with online access to safety training from any device, anywhere. 

2. Vehicle Familiarization 

Every operator needs to feel comfortable and familiar with the specific type of bus/motorcoach they will be operating. Imagine yourself at 15 learning how to drive using your mom's small 5-seater, low-sitting car. But, for your driver's test, your dad makes you take the raised pickup truck. No way are you passing that test. 

This applies to all commercial drivers as well. The bus/motorcoach they are driving is very different from a van or sedan. Guaranteeing your drivers know how it operates including features, controls, safety systems, and emergency equipment is crucial to that driver's success. 

ELDT requires operators are trained on the following familiarization topics:

  • Instruments
  • Controls
  • Signals & Horn
  • And more

3. Behind-the-Wheel Training

Think of your 16-year-old self again. If your parents or instructors were wise, they gave you supervised driving experience driving in a wide variety of conditions. The last thing they wanted was a 16-year-old to be driving in 10 inches of snow for the first time on their own.

No operator should be expected to do the same. 

Every traffic condition, road type, and weather condition has skills that each trainee must practice in, supervised before they get certified. There is no minimum hour requirement, and completion is based on the training instructor’s assessment. 

ELDT mandates many topics for mastery of basic maneuvers and control skills including the following closed course exercises:

  • Blind-side/sight-side backing
  • Blind-side/sight-side parallel parking
  • Judgment stop & use of brakes
  • Straightforward driving
  • And more

Additionally, ELDT mandates behind-the-wheel training on topics such as:

  • Following distance
  • Navigating intersections
  • Changing lanes, merging & passing
  • And more

4. Regular Assessments and Evaluations

Even after certification, the skills of each bus driver should continuously be monitored and evaluated. If not, operators start to ignore compliance with the skills they learned, leading to an accident, cost, or both for your company. We suggest The Bus Safety Course as an option to organize all of the remedial training and monitoring of your operators.

Compliant & Safe

ELDT exists to create safe roadways. However, on its own, it won’t create safe operators.

You need to comply with ELDT, but you also need to go above and beyond if you want to drastically reduce accidents, injuries, and cost of loss. Invest in an effective bus operator training program now to avoid future headaches and tragedies.

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