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December 21, 2020 5:00 PM, EST

FMCSA Continues Waivers for Expired CDLs, Medical Certifications

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As part of its continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a waiver offering regulatory relief to commercial driver license and commercial learner permit holders.

The waiver builds on previous federal notices, the first of which was issued March 24. The previous waivers similarly covered various regulatory provisions affecting CDL and CLP holders.

The waiver is designed to offer relief to drivers who may be unable to renew their licenses or permits or provide medical certificates to their state driver licensing agency. The pandemic — and associated safety procedures — have placed constraints on service at state licensing offices.

“Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, many states are experiencing greater than normal employee absences, reduced hours of operation or closed offices of their state driver licensing agencies in response to the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use social distancing,” FMCSA’s waiver notice states. “The pace of return-to-normal operations has varied across the country.”

Additionally, drivers may have difficulty securing appointments with medical examiners for physical exams to comply with federal regulations, according to FMCSA.

The waiver, effective Jan. 1, expires Feb. 28 or whenever the president’s declaration of national emergency is revoked, whichever is sooner. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency on March 13.

Specifically, FMCSA’s notice:

  • Allows states, at their discretion, to extend the validity of CDLs that expired on or after March 1, 2020, beyond the maximum of eight years set forth in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
  • Allows states, at their discretion, to extend the validity of CLPs that expired on or after March 1, 2020, beyond the maximum of one year set forth in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations without requiring the CLP holders to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests.
  • Waives the requirement that CLP holders wait 14 days to take the CDL skills test.
  • Waives the requirement that drivers have a medical examination and certification, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance that was issued for a period of 90 days or longer and that expired on or after Sept. 1, 2020.
  • Waives the requirement that, in order to maintain the medical certification status of “certified,” CDL or CLP holders provide the state licensing agency with an original or copy of a subsequently issued medical examiner’s certificate and any required medical variance, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after Sept. 1, 2020.
  • Waives the requirement that the state licensing agency change the CDL or CLP holder’s medical certification status to “not certified” upon the expiration of the medical examiner’s certificate or medical variance, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after Sept. 1, 2020.
  • Waives the requirements that the state licensing agency initiate a CDL or CLP downgrade upon the expiration of the medical examiner’s certificate or medical variance, provided that the CDL or CLP holders have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after Sept. 1, 2020.

FMCSA continues to recognize the validity of CDLs issued by Canadian and Mexican government agencies when such jurisdictions issue a similar notice extending the validity date of the medical exam and certification and/or the validity of the corresponding CDL due to the pandemic’s interruption to government service.

“This waiver is in the public interest because it would allow drivers covered under this waiver to deliver essential supplies and persons across state lines to address the national emergency and would aid in the economic recovery,” the notice states.

In addition to licensing waivers, FMCSA also has issued relief from hours-of-service regulations to truckers involved in coronavirus-related emergency efforts. In early December, FMCSA extended the HOS declaration to Feb. 28 and expanded its scope to include truckers hauling COVID-19 vaccines.

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