Entry Level Truck Driver Training Standards

PTDI has developed state of the art truck driver training standards by bringing together schools, carriers, insurance providers, safety groups and other truck industry stakeholders. Ours is the first industry and government-recognized curriculum and certification standards.

The certification standards are performance based, incorporate industry driven benchmarks, and the US Department of Transportation guidelines.   All of PTDI’s standards result from the collective efforts and consensus of representatives from the motor carrier and insurance industries, drivers, and educators.

==> Purchase the PTDI Entry Level Driver Training Standards in our store.

The Standards are included in PTDI's Complete CDL-A Training Package or can be purchased separately.

All schools with certified courses have access to resources, including the most current version of the standards, through their PTDI account.  Certified courses can access the secured content here.

What are the Entry level Driver Training Standards?

The set of PTDI Entry Level Truck Driver Training standards are composed of three separate documents.

  1. Skills Standards
  2. Curriculum Standards
  3. Certification Standards

These three sets of standards work in conjunction to create a framework for quality training programs and PTDI Certification. Further details of each standard document is provided below in numbers (1), (2), and (3).

What are the Benefits of PTDI Standards?

There are a number of benefits to standardized training.  Some of the most relevant reasons to develop and use uniform criteria for truck driver training include:

  • Creates a structure to develop and improve training programs
  • Provides an inventory of critical work performances
  • Ensures common elements from which to assess program effectiveness and driver competency
  • Develops skilled, effective and safe drivers
  • Enlarges the pool of skilled workers
  • Demonstrates the importance of the training investment

More than just government minimums:

PTDI Standards exceed the minimum U.S government regulation in many ways that speak to the commitment to quality that is common among schools with PTDI certified courses.

Certification standards that:

  • Promote detailed student record keeping
  • Provide guidelines for effective lesson plans
  • Assess student outcomes to promote program quality and effectiveness
  • Delivers a “Worry-free” program through course certification and annual review/renewal

Emphasizes ethics in education through:

  • Truth in public information
  • Organizational framework
  • Policies and procedures to ensure fairness and consistency for student success    

Curricular standards that:

  • Stress clear goals and objectives
  • State measurable curricular and skills objectives
  • Provide evidence of student proficiency
  • Include “Competency” and minimum “Behind-The-Wheel” requirements to promote greater skills and knowledge development

(1) Skill Standards

The skill standards describe in detail the tasks and responsibilities of a CMV driver. The standards provide a basis for curriculum, instructional materials, performance, and assessment used by training organizations. They also encourage drivers to assess their progress and establish goals for improving personal performance.

The standards describe the skill and knowledge base as well as the performance criteria critical for success as an entry-level driver.  The standards are based on information collected from high performance drivers, as nominated by their companies throughout the United States.  

Standards are presented for each of the major duties or functions of entry-level truck drivers.  Each standard contains a statement of the duty competency, a performance criterion, and a list of necessary elements for the duty.  It starts with describing how, in an ideal situation using a high performing driver what the skill would look like - that is the “Statement of Work to be Performed.”  The “Performance Criteria” breaks down the skill into subparts and describes more specifics about the performance.  The final part (“Performance Elements and Assessment Criteria”) describes additional conditions and factors at which the skill must be demonstrated and assessed.  Knowledge required to perform the duty, attitude statements (if applicable), and the skill matrix are included in the appendices.

The standards provide details for the 21 primary Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Operator functions/duties.

  1.     Read and Interpret Control Systems
  2.     Perform Vehicle Inspections
  3.     Exercise Basic Control
  4.     Execute Shifting
  5.     Back and Dock CMV
  6.     Couple Trailer
  7.     Uncouple Trailer
  8.     Perform Visual Search
  9.     Manage and Adjust Vehicle Speed
  10.     Manage and Adjust Vehicle Space Relations
  11.     Check and Maintain Vehicle Systems and Components
  12.     Diagnose and Report Malfunctions
  13.     Identify Potential Driving Hazards, Distracted Driving and Perform Emergency Maneuvers
  14.     Identify and Adjust to Difficult and Extreme Driving Conditions
  15.     Handle and Document Cargo
  16.     Address Accident Scenes and Reporting Procedures
  17.     Address Environmental Issues
  18.     Plan Trips/Make Appropriate Decisions
  19.     Use Effective Communications
  20.     Manage Personal Resources While on the Road, Dangers of Substance Abuse
  21.     Record and Maintain Hours of Service Requirements

(2) Curiculum Standards

Formal training is the most reliable way to learn the many special skills required for entry-level commercial motor vehicle driving.  Training organizations using PTDI standards are guided by minimum requirements against which the quality of their training courses can be measured. 

The curriculum standards are based on the skills, knowledge, tasks, and duties of entry-level commercial motor vehicle operators, as explained and rated by experienced drivers.  They also incorporate the the U.S. Department of Transportation's minimum criteria and requirements.

The basic curriculum is offered as a framework for which the training organization formulates their program as is best suited for that organization's needs.  There are required core components the organization should address to be eligible for PTDI certification.

The curriculum standards are presented in five distinct units.






Additional Content provided in the curriculum standards:
  • Definition of Terms
  • Minimum Training Hours
  • Classroom hours
  • Behind the wheel time
  • Defensive Driving Course
  • Independent Study
  • Distance Learning
  • Externship
  • Exhibit 1: Programmatic Course Options in Hours
  • Exhibit 2: Minimum Hours for Training (Summary Chart)

Additional information about how the PTDI standards align and exceed the new Entry Level Driver Training Regulation can be found in PTDI's new guidebook.  Learn more about PTDI's E-Z Guide to the Entry Level Driver Regulation

Note that the curriculum standards are intended to teach “entry level drivers” the basic skills needed to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. They do not address every skill, knowledge, task, duty or ability suggested by drivers as necessary for entry-level drivers to possess and use.  For more information about PTDI's "solo driver" skills, please review the Driver Finishing Standards.

(3) Certification Standards

Certification Standards Structure


 Standard Area 


 Training Organization


 Public Information


 Course Curriculum






 Facilities and Equipment















The PTDI Certification Profile matches the certification structure.

Highlights of the Standards

    • Truth in Advertising (Ethics)
    • Professional training operations
    • Required course curriculum units and skills
    • Defined and specific student performance objectives
    • Qualified instructors with ongoing professional development
    • Vehicles are safe and in good condition
    • Effective student, instructor, and vehicle ratios
    • Quality classroom and range conditions
    • 148 hours of combined instruction
      • Of the 148 hours: 104 are classroom/lab and 44 hours of behind the wheel (BTW)
      • Of the 44 BTW hours a minimum of: 12 hours highway, 1 hour at night, 6 hours with a loaded trailer
    • Classroom, range and road tests
    • Student record keeping

Get PTDI's complete Entry Level Driver Training Package

The complete Entry Level Driver Training Program package contains the standards, certification resources, curriculum and ELDT Guidebook.  Purchase them individually or as a package.

==> Purchase the complete Entry Level Driver CDL-A Training Package in the PTDI store.

Schools with certified courses have access to PTDI standards and resources through their PTDI account.  Certified courses can access the secured content here.

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