FMCSA announces two new rules to address truck driver shortage
FMCSA Proposes Rules to Address Truck Driver Shortage

The natural shortage of commercial drivers has been plaguing America’s trucking industry for quite a while now. In an attempt to reduce this natural shortage of commercial drivers, FMCSA has announced proposals to two new rules.

These rules are expected to arrest the downward trend and improve the employment conditions of commercial drivers in the United States.

On the release of the proposals, the Deputy Administrator of the FMCSA, Daphne Jefferson said, “Taken together, these two proposals will help ease the entry for thousands of qualified individuals into career opportunities as professional truck and bus drivers — a critical occupation facing an acute labor shortage in our country.”

The primary goal of these two proposals would be to simplify the process of getting a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Let’s discuss in details what those proposals are about.

Proposal #1: Military Licensing and State CDL Reciprocity

This proposal is to encourage the military officials to participate in commercial operations by easily obtaining a civilian CDL. The rule proposes that the state licensing agencies waive the knowledge test for qualified veterans and active duty military personnel. This rule also includes the National Guards and Reserves.

Daphne Jefferson explained, “We owe so much to our men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces. 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.”

When she said, “this would be one more way”, she referred to the earlier rule-making in October 2016 that included the waiver of the skill test and a temporary exemption to take a knowledge test for the military personnel to obtain a CDL.

Analysis

Clearly, the aim of this proposal is to increase the contribution of military personnel into civilian operations as well as to address the national driver shortage issue. Allowing a seamless transition (from a military CDL to a civilian CDL) is a safe and effective way of doing this.

Proposal #2: Commercial Learner’s Permit Validity

This law proposes that the commercial learner’s permit validity be extended from six-months to a one-year period.

“Having one-year expiration will eliminate unnecessary re-testing and additional fees for those seeking the 180-day renewal of the permit.”, says Daphne Jefferson.

Analysis

With this rule, FMCSA would allow states to issue a CDL with an expiration date of up to 12 months. As a result of this law, a lot of resources would be saved that are otherwise spent for re-testing, paperwork, and administrative tasks. Additionally, individuals would also be saved from unnecessary re-testing and the additional fees associated with it.

Public Comments

Both the proposals will be opened for public comments following their publication in the Federal Register. A 60-day period would be given to the public to respond.

To make your comment, you can search the Docket No. FMCSA – 2017-0047 for proposal #1 (Military Licensing and State CDL Reciprocity) and the Docket No. FMCSA – 2016-0346 for the proposal # 2 (Commercial Learner’s Permit Validity) at www.regulations.gov.

Conclusion

America’s trucking industry is facing a natural shortage of drivers for quite some time. There is no doubt about that. Therefore, FMCSA’s attempt to introduce new proposals and counter the problem before it gets worse is commendable.

Moreover, while announcing these rules, FMCSA was very adamant regarding road safety and the obedience of traffic laws. They also highlighted the fact that these two proposals are drafted while keeping road safety in mind.

In the words of Jefferson, “At the core of both the proposals is the safety of the monitoring public. We will continue to demand that commercial truck and bus drivers and their employers adhere to the safety standards that exist to protect all drivers.

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