TDG’s Competency-Based Training and Assessment Standards

by Jim Powell, President, Transportation Development Group (TDG) LLC

What is CBTA? Competency-Based Training and Assessment is the idea that:

  • Students should be trained and tested (assessed) only in those areas relevant to their particular job function at a skill-level appropriate for their particular job responsibilities.
  • Students should be assessed on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are STILL competent to perform those job functions at the required skill-level/competency-level.

Question 1:         Is this something new?

Answer: Not really, in the United States since 1992 there has been the overarching DOT standard for Air, Ground and Ocean shipping that the employee, in addition to General Awareness, Safety and Security Training also receives “function-specific” training that is related directly to their involvement with Dangerous goods.

Question 2:         IATA is advertising “Competency-Based Training Centers.”  What is this and is it mandatory?

IATA (an industry trade association) is marketing several different types of service offerings related to “competency-based training” and assessment.  This is a commercial investment that they are making to franchise CBTA training in some manner.  We applaud any industry effort to bring global standards closer to the employer-based, needs-specific approach we’ve had in the United States. 

For example, our training (Transportation Development Group LLC) for the last 30 years has always included a review with the employee on the questions they missed on an exam, this was not allowed under IATA. You were only allowed to know the score you attained, and it had to be at least 80%.  Since all our training at comports with the CBTA philosophy there is no need to make any changes other than the examination process as outlined in this FAQ.

Question 3:         How is Transportation Development Group’s training (and testing) different under this CBTA approach?

There are two main differences, one (as mentioned in question 2) has been in place for 30 years with our training, the other is new.

Reviewing Incorrect Answers with the Student (not just the score)

We have always (and will always) let the student know the questions they got wrong, and what the correct answer is. We provide a graded printout of the exam showing the correct answers. We believe strongly that once training is complete, the student should know everything they are required to know in order to be deemed “competent” in their job function.

In Q2 2022 our Exam Changed

In the second quarter of 2022 our online examination process changed so that simply achieving a passing score is not enough, you must pass all learning objectives in order to be certified by us and your employer.  Here’s an example:

Comparison of Old Examination Process and Competency-Based Training

Competency Element (Objective)Example: Old System (points scored per topic)New System 2022 CBTA
Placarding55  (FAIL) [Retake]
Handling / Segregation55  (FAIL) [Retake]
Safety55  (FAIL) [Retake]
Overall Score (80 is passing)85 (PASS)85 (FAIL) [Retake topics missed]
Comparison of Old Examination Process and Competency-Based Training

The good news is that students will not have to retake the entire examination as they have had to do in the past – they will be retested only on the competency elements (objectives/topics) that they failed. It’s easy to see why this is important, under the old system an employee could utterly fail certain key objectives – like handling and safety and still “pass” the exam.

Question 4:         Are there any plans for the US or other Governments to change their training requirements to adopt CBTA?

As mentioned in Question #1, the US has always taken this type of approach and in fact in the mid-1990’s the international community started adopting some of the same language such as Security Awareness Training, Safety Training, General “Familiarization” training. 

There is one government, the government of Canada who is formally adopting revised CBTA standards. In fact, our program developer was part of the Canadian government standards committee for over two years, along with other industry experts, helping them develop these guidelines.  But in short, there’s no changes for the US or other governments planned at the moment.


The IATA trade association move to CBTA is a step in the right direction but has no bearing on your legal training requirement. Nonetheless, our training DOES comport with both the legal requirements of the competent authority and the Competency-Based Training and Assessment Philosophy in general, as outlined herein.