OOIDA blasts CRST's exemption request for permitted drivers

By Land Line staff | Friday, February 05, 2016

The OOIDA is asking federal regulators to deny an exemption request by CRST that would allow the company’s new drivers who have received a permit but have not yet passed a state CDL license exam to operate a tractor-trailer under load without a CDL holder in the jump seat.

In written comments filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Feb. 4, OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said the Association believes the exemption sought by CRST is not in the interest of highway safety; will put OOIDA members who share the road with poorly trained drivers at risk; and fails to demonstrate that a waiver would result in “a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved by the current regulation.”

“Further, CRST does not demonstrate that it is ‘significantly burdened’ by the existing regulation and rather only demonstrates a desire to increase productivity and preserve CRST’s current business practices,” Spencer wrote in the comments. “We find the request fails to meet the applicable standards the FMCSA must consider and is ill-timed considering FMCSA is currently reviewing entry-level driver training standards.”

Following a similar successful exemption request by C.R. England, CRST Expedited is now asking FMCSA to let it put its permitted drivers behind the wheel without direct supervision before they receive their full CDL.

CRST requests an exemption from FMCSA to allow permit holders who have successfully passed the CDL skills test to be able to drive a truck without having a CDL holder seated beside them. The request states that the CDL holder would remain in the truck at all times while the permit holder is driving, but not necessarily in the passenger seat.

Currently, all permitted drivers must have a licensed CDL holder in the jump seat when the permitted driver is operating the truck. That restriction is lifted once the permitted driver receives their state-issued CDL.

Spencer’s comments ask the FMCSA to analyze the safety performance of all CRST divisions, because the agency has previously stated that past safety performance is a strong indicator of future safety performance. The Association’s comments go on to note that three CRST divisions appear to have higher than expected crash rates per 100 Power Units (PU).

According to statistics from FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System website, CRST Expedited averages only 758,980 miles between crashes. This translates into a 22.2 Crash Rate per 100 PU,
more than double an average TL mega carrier (9.99 per 100 PU).

“This is a carrier with its own safety performance issues; therefore, it seems illogical for the Agency to grant an exemption for CRST’s least experienced drivers,” Spencer stated. “Safety with this carrier is not a foregone conclusion.”

CRST’s reasoning for asking for the exemption closely resembles the arguments C.R. England presented to the agency when it petitioned for the same exemption in late 2014. C.R. England was granted the exemption in 2015.

In its request for an exemption, CRST says that after students graduate the company’s school the students are then sent to the home state to obtain their CDL. To get the students to their home state, CRST has them ride along as passengers on a run.

The company claims the new drivers suffer financially because it can be several days or weeks between school and when they are able to get home to test for the CDL. CRST also says because of those potential delays, students could face a significant amount of time between learning to drive and actually driving, forgetting what they were taught.

CRST also outlined how the company would benefit from the exemption. Currently, the company is faced with increased costs of getting a student home if using public transportation. Or, if they send the student on the truck, they are operating the truck at “double the cost for half the productivity.”

Additionally, CRST states that the company risks further financial loss as CRST would “undoubtedly lose control of some CLP holders once they returned home and obtained their CDL – as they may find employment elsewhere” upon returning home to get their CDL.

Spencer writes that the justification for CRST’s request “appears to be based more on a concern over recruitment and driver retention than what the present regulations require.”

“OOIDA believes that if CRST offers a driving program that is effective and offers its graduates a fair and just compensation upon completion that the concerns of CRST are not warranted,” he stated. “Further, neither FMCSA, nor any other government agency, is forcing CRST to hire drivers who will be difficult to route back to their state of domicile to receive their CDL. … They do not equal a significant burden. This is a voluntary choice by CRST which FMCSA bears no responsibility to fix.”

The exemption would allow CRST to operate trucks with a permitted driver in team driving operations.

Managing Editor Jami Jones and Associate Editor Greg Grisolano contributed to this report.
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