C.R. England's student driver exemption is a step backward, OOIDA says

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 6/10/2015

OOIDA and numerous other groups say an exemption granted to C.R. England by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration flies in the face of efforts to make sure new truckers are adequately trained and equipped to take the wheel.

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.

CRE says the current rules that prohibit student drivers from hauling loads in this manner limits the mega carrier’s ability to recruit, train and employ new drivers. The carrier says getting its students back to their home states while compensating them for a paid load, or more, is a perk.

FMCSA bought it, and says it will grant the exemption via the Federal Register in the coming days.

“The temporary CDL allowed C.R. England time to route the new driver to his or her state of domicile to obtain the permanent CDL and place the new driver into an on-the-job training position with a driver-trainer,” FMCSA stated in a preliminary notice.

“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,” the agency stated. “Thus, the new driver became productive immediately, allowing more freight movement for C.R. England and compensation for the new driver.”

FMCSA’s granting of the request takes the driver-training argument a step in the wrong direction, OOIDA says.

“The decision typifies what passes for comprehensive training and proper preparation of new drivers,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line. “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 DeSoto, 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.

See related story:
C.R. England seeks exemption to let new drivers behind the wheel quicker

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