The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announces a final rule (Docket No. FMCSA-2016-0051) on Oct. 12 that simplifies the process of obtaining a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) or Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for current and former military personnel. Military members who drove commercial vehicles (CMV) in the service will now have a full year to apply for a skills test waiver instead of just 90 days after they leave the service. The rule also allows a state to accept applications from active-duty military personnel who are stationed in that state and to administer the written and skills test for a CLP or CDL. FMCSA had been granting states temporary exemptions that extended the time of the waiver since 2014. This action would make the waiver extension permanent. FMCSA said the proposed rule will accomplish the following:
- Demonstrate FMCSA’s commitment to serving veterans and assist in efforts to attract and retain skilled CMV drivers.
- Provide military personnel with a time extension to apply for a skills test waiver and also permit active duty military personnel to apply and be tested for their CLP and CDL in the state where they are stationed.
- Establish a process that allows veteran operators to obtain their DOT medical certification exams from their Department of Veterans Affairs physician.
- Provide CMV Operator Safety Training grant program that will provide grant funds to commercial driver training schools that train veterans to transition into civilian motor carrier careers.
- Enable a federal military pilot program that will allow select military personnel between 18-21 years of age to operate a CMV in interstate commerce.
“FMCSA believes that this would give former military personnel a better opportunity to obtain a CDL in a way that will not negatively affect safety,” the agency stated in its proposal. The agency also said it is has concluded that lengthening the waiver period permanently “would ease the transition of service members and veterans to civilian life.” Making CDLs more accessible for veterans has been a priority by many industry trade organizations and is seen as a promising way to recruit more drivers into the industry who can help alleviate the ongoing driver shortage. The FMSCA estimates this change could result in up to $7.7 million in new benefits over the next 10 years.
Additionally, the FAST Act, passed in December, requires FMCSA to (1) exempt certain ex-military form the CDL skills test if they had CMV driving experience in the military, (2) extend the skills test waiver to one year and (3) credit the CMV training military drivers receive in the military toward applicable CDL training and knowledge requirements. This rule would take care of the first two of the three requirements. FMSCA has said the third requirement will need additional rulemaking.
According to the agency, more than 10,000 separated military personnel have taken advantage of the skills-test waiver.
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