UPS seeks exemption for training on double trailers

UPS claims that its “hire from within culture” is clashing with federal driver training regulations so the package delivery giant is pleading its case – once again – to regulators.

In a letter sent to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on January 23, UPS [NSYE: UPS] has asked for a renewable five-year exemption so that the company can provide behind-the-wheel, on-road skills training to commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders pulling twin 28-foot trailers (doubles) during their initial training.

The exemption, which would affect approximately 1,000 driver trainees per year, would allow UPS to work around current federal regulations that prohibits drivers from operating a commercial vehicle if the driver does not have a CLP or commercial driver’s license (CDL) with the proper class or endorsements. Current regulations do not permit a double/triple trailers endorsement on CLPs.

UPS pointed out that current regulations require drivers to wait at least 14 days after getting a CLP before being allowed to take the CDL skills test, but the waiting period can take much longer depending on the state. “Weeks can pass between the time a driver receives his or her primary training and the time the driver is able to obtain on the road training or experience in doubles,” UPS asserted.

The company also said that its trainees, after completing formal training, continue to improve their skills by operating UPS vehicles while being supervised by certified instructors until they are able to obtain CDLs themselves. Under current regulations, “this additional experience can only be gained on single trailers, even though doubles are integral to UPS’s day-to-day business,” UPS stated. “This situation is very inefficient, extends and breaks up training time and creates a strain on UPS’s network and operations.”

In addition, because the company uses both conventional and double trailers in its 20,000-vehicle long-haul fleet, and requires all of its approximately 26,000 long-haul drivers to be qualified to operate doubles, the exemption “will ultimately make for a smoother and safer transition to tractor trailer driving for those UPS associates who express an interest in being promoted to such a role,” UPS maintained.

The exemption request comes a year after UPS sought another five-year exemption from regulators related to driver training. UPS contended that provisions within the now-delayed Entry Level Driver Training rule would limit its ability to meet new driver demand as well as impose other administrative burdens on the company. The company failed to show that it would maintain sufficient safety levels, according to the FMCSA, which subsequently denied the request in December.

To help “stave off” safety concerns that the FMCSA or the general public might have in the current exemption request, UPS proposed including the following terms:

  • Each driver with a CLP will receive a minimum of 80 hours of training.
  • Drivers must successfully pass a UPS written knowledge test similar to one that would be administered by the state to obtain a doubles/triples endorsement before beginning on-road skills training in doubles. 
  • Doubles skills training for drivers with CLPs will be provided in limited operating areas.
  • During all phases of behind the wheel training (i.e., road and range) driver trainees will have direct supervision (i.e., a certified instructor).
  • UPS will maintain a “Satisfactory” safety rating.

The FMCSA is issuing a 30-day comment period on UPS’s request to begin after the petition is published in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for Feb. 25.