C.R. England lands ‘are you kidding me?’ exemption

By David Tanner, senior editor

A recent exemption granted to C.R. England by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is another example of the agency letting the mega carriers write the rules.

C.R. England asked FMCSA in December 2014 to grant an exemption and allow student drivers who have a temporary CDL to take a revenue-producing trip back to their state of domicile to obtain their permanent CDL without having their trainer in the jump seat.

This will lead to trainees hauling loads under minimal supervision, unless you count an e-log and a speed limiter as babysitters.

CRE says that the current rules limit the mega carrier’s ability to recruit, train and employ new drivers and that getting students back to their home states with a paying load is a perk.

FMCSA bought it (what else is new?) saying the driver trainer “supervised and observed the new driver, but was not required to be on-duty and in the front seat at all times. Thus, the new driver became productive immediately, allowing more freight movement for C.R. England and compensation for the new driver.”

I talked to Todd Spencer about this, and he says England’s exemption is a step in the wrong direction for driver training and highway safety.

“The decision typifies what passes for comprehensive training and proper preparation of new drivers,” Spencer said. “It’s another reminder that what is considered by the industry to be acceptable preparation of new drivers is a joke.”

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth points out that public comments on CRE’s exemption request were overwhelmingly against it.

“Among the 274 comments in the docket, only 11 of them were in support,” Grenerth said. He says CRE’s claims about “driver shortage” and putting their student drivers under load to get them back to their state of domicile hold no water.

“This is like FMCSA being the big brother of

C.R. England and protecting them from some fictitious bully that is out to get them. This is a made-up problem,” Grenerth said.

CRE operates five driving schools under its Premier Truck Driving Schools label, according to the carrier’s exemption request.

Other schools, motor carriers, safety groups and associations blasted the exemption request during the public comment period that ended Dec. 30, 2014.

Apex CDL Institute based in De Soto, Kan., said the carrier’s exemption request had “nothing to do with driver shortage” and that “it has everything to do with their running a driver program consisting of indentured servants and their desire to maintain control over them.”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said the request was a “blatant attempt to circumvent a well-established regulatory regime to increase the company’s profits” and that it would dilute public safety efforts by allowing inexperienced CDL permit holders to go unsupervised. LL