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Federal trucking regulators have issued a three-month waiver that will allow truck drivers with commercial learner permits to operate during the COVID-19 emergency without a commercial licensed driver in the front seat of the cab, provided the CDL driver is in the truck.
The waiver also requires that the driver with the learner permit has evidence that he or she has passed the CDL driving skills test.
The waiver, which expires June 30, is intended to prevent a possible shortage of CMV drivers “from becoming a transportation emergency, and to continue the ability of intrastate and interstate CDL and CLP holders to transport goods in response to the COVID-19 emergency,” said the waiver, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 28.
The waiver also allows drivers to take the driving skills test in states where they are not domiciled, and regardless of where the CDL applicant received driver training.
This waiver does not apply to a learner permit holder who does not have a valid medical examiner’s certificate, FMCSA said.
“[While the waiver is] a great first step, it doesn’t solve the problem of somebody who needs to get that commercial learners permit from the 22 states whose state driver licensing agencies are closed due to the virus,” Commercial Vehicle Training Association President Don Lefeve said.
Lefeve said that the guidance would still require a CDL holder be in the sleeper but would not have to be in the jump seat.
“Typically, new drivers will be paired with a driver trainer for three to eight weeks depending on the company and individual’s skill progression” in what is called “finishing school,” a term used to describe additional training given by a company for individuals who have recently obtained their CDL, Lefeve said.
“I think the problem is that if the states’ DMVs remain closed, once that driver could move on to being a solo driver, they could only do so if they have an actual CDL, which as of now is near impossible in 22 states because of the DMVs being closed,” he added.
As a result of the DMV closures in those 22 states, many driver training schools have either limited their operations or closed, Lefeve said. “So, it’s critical that governors understand that they need to keep the state driver license agencies open,” he added.
FMCSA said the waiver does not apply to CMV operations requiring the following endorsements: T (double/triple trailers), P (passenger), N (tank vehicle), H (hazardous materials), X (combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials) and S (school bus).
“A state driver licensing agency that elects to administer a CDL driving skills test to a nondomiciled CMV applicant under this waiver must transmit the test results electronically directly from the testing state to the licensing state in an efficient and secure manner,” the waiver said.
“To put all this in perspective, each year — the statistics vary — anywhere from 300,000 to 480,000 CDL are issued,” Lefeve said. “To use conservative numbers, say 25,000 a month aren’t going to be licensed to do anything in the response or recovery effort.”
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