Entry Level Driver Training

Entry Level DRiver Training

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Effective February 7th, 2022, the federal government put into effect certain requirements for new drivers looking to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) called the Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) mandate. The goal of the ELDT is to standardize training of new CDL drivers across the country to help make the roads safer for all to travel on.

While the focus of this mandate is geared towards the trucking industry, tree care companies that have CDL drivers and vehicles are affected by this as well. 

So, how does ELDT affect your tree service? 

First off, ELDT is a federal mandate to ensure all new CDL drivers (or drivers looking to add another CDL endorsement to their current license) receive training on the same topics, however, it is important to note that each state may have their own way of implementing the ELDT mandate. Remember, the individual states are the entities who approve and issue the commercial driver’s licenses. So, your first step is to check with the state that your driver(s) will be licensed with to understand their take on this mandate.

The training is broken into two distinct parts; Theory (written/classroom) and Behind the Wheel (BTW). The theory part has thirty one topics ranging from basic commercial vehicle operation to non-driving activities like post-crash procedures. For a list of topics visit Samba Safety’s ELDT page. The BTW portion has two components with both range driving (closed course) and public road driving. The pre-post trip inspections are typically taught during the range driving and the practical experience of being on the road with the commercial vehicle is done within the public road training. 

A driver can do either part (theory or BTW) first, however, they cannot apply to take their physical CDL exam until they have been registered in the Training Provider Registry (TPR). Once they are listed on that national database, then they will be able to take their physical exam to obtain their CDL. From the conversations that I’ve had on this, how new drivers get into the TPR can vary from state to state, so check with the state your driver will be licensed in for specifics. 

That is the basic framework for the mandate, however, if you’ve dug into this in any manner, I know you have more questions, so I’ve compiled a sample of questions that we have received from tree care companies on this new mandate.

  • Can I still train my drivers in house? – Yes, you can, however, your driver will need to be registered in the Training Provider Registry (TPR) showing that they have completed ELDT before scheduling their physical exam to obtain their CDL. How they get registered in the TPR will be state specific.


  • Are there online resources to help with training? – Yes, there are a number of vendors who are selling online packages to help employers do in-house ELDT. As an example, JJ Keller offers online material to help companies train in-house. They have a Trainer manual ($129) plus online courses ($1,413 per person) for all topics. A quick google search of ELDT materials will produce many options for you to choose from. 


  • Do I need to register as a training school? – If you want to be able to do only in-house training for your new CDL drivers, then yes, you’ll need to have at least one registered instructor and be listed as an approved Training Provider (school). Again, check with your state on what the specifics are to do this as each state may differ.


  • How many training hours are required to comply with ELDT? – The ELDT language does not specify the number of hours for training the theory (written) part or behind the wheel. They only require that the driver can pass the written test with 80% proficiency and pass the physical exam. How many hours of training it takes to get that done is up to the training provider.


  • How do I record training hours? – There is no guidance or specific format to track training hours, only that you must track the hours spent on each section of the training.

For more information on the ELDT visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s FAQ’s.

If you need help with driver safety and/or fleet management, contact ArboRisk to learn more about their Thrive Risk Management Safety Package!

Tom Dunn