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September 25, 2020 11:15 AM, EDT

FMCSA Denies Ohio Safety Agency’s Petition for Veteran Driver Exemptions

NC National Guard driver trainingSoldiers in Bravo Company, 1-252 Armor Regiment, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, North Carolina National Guard, drive the MaxxPro Mine Resistance Ambush Protected and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle while conducting mobilization training. (U.S. Army)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s request for an exemption to modify the mandatory skills test requirements for drivers with military experience, according to a notice scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on Sept. 28.

ODPS filed its request for exemption in April 2019. Specifically, it asked for exemption from the requirements that applicants for skills test waivers certify that they were employed in a military capacity to operate a truck within the past year and that they operated such a vehicle for at least two years immediately preceding military discharge. ODPS asked to eliminate these requirements and instead proposed that the applicant be required to have operated a commercial motor vehicle for at least two years at any point during his or her military service.

In forming its decision, FMCSA reviewed 37 public comments. According to the Federal Register document, 35 of the comments favored the exemption, but none provided supporting data.

Fmcsa Ohio by Transport Topics

“FMCSA has determined that the applicant did not provide an alternative to ensure that an equivalent level of safety would be achieved under the exemption,” the Federal Register document states.

ODPS’ goal was to promote opportunities for operators with military backgrounds by reducing the regulatory burdens of obtaining a commercial driver license.

To ensure an equal or greater level of safety, ODPS proposed a skills test waiver process for a CDL applicant in which the applicant submits to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles:

  • A violation-free driving record for the past two years.
  • Proof of regular employment in a military position requiring operation of a CMV.
  • Proof of experience operating a representative vehicle for at least two years.

Among the supporters of ODPS’ exemption application were the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the American Beverage Association, the Ohio Trucking Association, the Ohio Propane Gas Association, the National Propane Gas Association and 27 members of Congress.

The Federal Register document states that a primary reason cited in support of the exemption was the trucking industry’s lack of qualified drivers. According to a forecast from 2019, American Trucking Associations estimated the industry was lacking 60,800 drivers at the end of 2018. ATA also found that the industry could be short more than 100,000 drivers in five years if conditions don’t change.

“It is clear that the depth and breadth of military vehicle training is beyond the civilian skills assessment for a CDL,” the National Propane Gas Association said in its comment, according to the Federal Register notice. “The training, assessment and supervision that a veteran received during military service presents at least the same level of safety, if not greater, as the level of safety achieved by administering the skills assessment of the CDL exam to military veterans.”

RoadSigns

What does it take to be a commercial driver, and what are schools doing to train them? Host Michael Freeze speaks with Chris Thropp of Sage Truck Driving School and Don Lefeve of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

One of the two opponents of ODPS’ request noted that, because no length of time was stipulated, a person who drove a military vehicle 10 years ago would qualify even if he or she has no recent experience.

“The agency does not have data to determine whether the skills required to operate a CMV decline over time when not used regularly, which the exemption application would allow,” the Federal Register document states. “For these reasons, the agency has decided to deny the exemption request.”

FMCSA has taken actions over the past couple of years to open up trucking jobs to people with military experience. In October 2019, FMCSA unveiled a website to help people between the ages of 18 and 20 who possess the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver license find trucking jobs.

In September 2018, FMCSA announced a rule that allows state driver’s licensing agencies to waive the requirement of the commercial learner’s permit for individuals who worked in a military position that required operating a truck within the past year.

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