The FMCSA has amended its regulations to allow states the option of issuing a commercial learner’s permit with an expiration date of up to one year, replacing the current six-month limitation.
The final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 21, goes into effect on Feb. 19.
“This final rule allows states the option of issuing a commercial learner’s permit valid for up to one year from the date of initial issuance,” the final rule stated.
The final rule also gives states the option of renewing current six-month learner’s permits up to one year from the original date of issuance.
“Within that one-year period, the commercial learner’s permit may be renewed at the state’s discretion, but if it is renewed the commercial learner’s permit may not be valid for more than a total of one year from the date of initial issuance.”
If the driver doesn’t obtain a commercial driver’s license within one year of receiving the permit, then he or she must reapply for a learner’s permit by retaking the applicable knowledge tests.
FMCSA announced the proposal in June 2017. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposed the action, saying that it would negatively affect safety by allowing motor carriers to keep drivers with commercial learner’s permits behind the wheel longer and use them instead of CDL holders. OOIDA also believes it will allow motor carriers to pay drivers a lower wage, because they don’t have a full CDL.
Another concern from OOIDA is that the impetus for the final rule is the belief that there is a national driver shortage. OOIDA contends that the driver shortage is a myth and that the real problem involves high turnover rates among the large fleets.
“Those who perpetuate the notion of a driver shortage ask you to believe that basic laws of supply and demand simply don’t work,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “They say we’ve got a shortage, but if there’s a shortage in anything, it will be reflected in the price or value of that particular service. Incomes for drivers adjusted for inflation going back to 1980 would be twice what they are right now or more if they had just kept pace with inflation.”
Petitions for reconsideration of the final rule will be allowed until Jan. 22.
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