October 17, 2016 1:30 AM, EDT

FMCSA to Simplify Process for Veterans to Get CDLs

This story appears in the Oct. 17 print edition of Transport Topics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last week announced its final rule intended to assist the transition of military personnel to civilian careers as truck drivers by simplifying the learner permit and driver license process.

The final rule extends the period of time for applying for a skills test waiver to one year from 90 days after leaving a military position that requires operating a commercial vehicle.

The rule also allows active-duty military personnel to apply for a commercial learner permit and commercial driver license from the state in which they are stationed, rather than just in their home state, the agency said.

The proposed regulatory changes were first recommended in a November 2013 report to Congress mandated by the 2012 MAP-21 law.

“Simplifying the process for military CMV drivers to obtain a civilian CDL is important because significant numbers of these drivers have the training and experience to transfer directly to civilian CMV jobs,” the report concluded. “Military CMV drivers can help to meet the driver shortages experienced by civilian employers.”

The rule was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 13.

States that choose to accept such applications must use forms and procedures acceptable to the state of domicile of the military personnel (their state of permanent residence or “home” state) and must transmit the test results electronically to the state of domicile, the agency said.

The final rule will be effective 60 days after publication. The proposed rule was issued in March.

American Trucking Associations and other industry trade organizations have said that easing the rules to hire veterans as truck drivers not only will secure good jobs for vets, but also will help provide a supply of experienced men and women to alleviate the ongoing driver shortage.

The new final rule satisfies two of three 2015 FAST Act highway law mandates.

FMCSA’s final rule did not address a third requirement of the FAST Act that would permit the training military drivers receive in the armed forces to be applicable to CDL training and knowledge requirements. That provision will require a subsequent rulemaking, FMCSA said.

FMCSA has said more than 60,000 U.S. service members are assigned to occupational specialties that involve operating heavy vehicles. Many of such vehicles are similar to the commercial motor vehicles operated in the civilian sector, and the military utilizes for-hire carriers to supplement its distribution system.

Federal regulations do not require drivers to acquire a civilian CDL during military service, but commercial carriers require new CDL hires to validate a safe-driving history and proof of civilian CMV driving experience, according to FMCSA.