FMCSA announces two proposals regarding CDLs

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Monday, June 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently made a pair of proposals that it says would simplify the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license for many individuals.

One of the proposals would allow qualified military veterans and active-duty personnel, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, to obtain a CDL without having to take a knowledge test. The other proposal would allow states to issue a CDL learner’s permit with an expiration date of up to one year, replacing the current six-month limitation.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is in favor of the military exemption but expressed some concerns about increasing the length of a learner’s permit.

“We’ve always been supportive of trying to get experienced and qualified veterans into the industry, because we know that they have the skills from their military experience to make a seamless transition,” said Collin Long, OOIDA director of legislative affairs.

Since 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has allowed states to waive the CDL skill test requirement for qualified veterans and active duty personnel. More than 18,800 individuals have transitioned from their military service into the U.S. civilian jobs as commercial truck and bus drivers under the waiver opportunity.

“We owe so much to our men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson said in a news release. “This action would be one more way we can express our gratitude and assist those with a military CDL who wish to utilize their extensive training and experience operating heavy trucks and buses into careers as civilians.”

The second proposal involves learner’s permits. The FMCSA said increasing the length of a learner’s permit would eliminate “burdensome and costly” paperwork requirements by the states.

“We have some concerns about that and how it could be used to keep trainees in that training mode for an extended period of time and pay them significantly less because they don’t have their full CDL,” Long said.

Another concern from OOIDA is how the FMCSA refers to a national driver shortage as the reason for both of the proposals.

“We contend that there isn’t a driver shortage, and that’s there’s a turnover problem,” Long said. “Unfortunately, it looks like they are pursuing a proposal that would perpetuate that problem rather than address it. I don’t like the fact that they are talking about a shortage in their press release. Instead, they need to talk about ways to improve the high turnover rate.

“We still want the most well trained and knowledgeable drivers on the road, so we support efforts on that front. But I’m not convinced this is a way to go about it.”

The FMCSA will accept comments on both proposals for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

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