By Terry Scruton
If you want to get a CDL in Georgia, you’re going to have to watch the highways in more ways than one.
New legislation signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue in June requires truckers and others renewing their CDLs to go through about one hour of safety and security training through the Highway Watch program.
The law applies to CDLs that expire on or after July 1, as well as to anyone applying for a new CDL after that date. The training, which is free of charge, is a one-time-only requirement.
After training for the program is complete, truckers will receive a Highway Watch identification card that must be presented to the Department of Driver Services when they apply for or renew their CDL.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said forcing truck drivers into the Highway Watch program is inappropriate.
“This is another example of how lawmakers can embrace even largely wasteful initiatives if they are packaged and presented in a slick fashion,” he said. “It’s certainly clear that this legislation passed without the benefit of many constituents, or certainly many truck drivers in Georgia, being aware of it.”
Spencer said using the Highway Watch program in this way is a step in the wrong direction.
“If lawmakers in Georgia were going to address the issue of licensing, we certainly would have preferred to see them do something to improve highway safety, which is the principle reason for the licensing program to begin with,” he said.
The law also includes provisions requiring the Georgia DOT to verify with the Transportation Security Administration that a person seeking to apply for, renew, upgrade or transfer a CDL with a hazardous materials endorsement does not pose a security risk.
TSA has developed lists of crimes that pose a potential threat to the nation’s transportation network. Some offenses disqualify a driver for up to seven years. Others disqualify the driver for life. TSA may grant waivers in certain circumstances.
If, after issuing a hazmat endorsement, the department receives notification that TSA has determined the CDL holder poses a security risk, the CDL would be cancelled. The driver may re-apply for a CDL without the hazmat endorsement.
If TSA fails to report back to GDOT about a trucker seeking a renewal prior to their CDL expiration date, the trucker would have their license extended 90 days until the security review is completed.
The law also states that hazmat haulers or certain bus drivers convicted of violating out-of-service orders will be disqualified for a period of not less than six months and no more than two years. The same violation within 10 years will result in a three- to five-year suspension.
State Legislative Editor Keith Goble contributed to this report