[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
A New Hampshire law preventing licensing of new entry-level truck drivers has been changed with the governor’s signing of immediate legislation to comply with new federal requirements.
Bob Sculley, president of the New Hampshire Motor Transport Association, was instrumental in enabling Gov. Christopher Sununu to sign Senate Bill 307 on March 18 and even helped walk the legislation over two days earlier after it passed in the Senate and House of the New Hampshire General Court.
“I feel good. Now it allows us to comply with the law,” Sculley said. “It allows all our members to be able to train new truck drivers the way they are supposed to be without having a hurdle that we can’t overcome.”
Without the new law, there would be no new truck drivers in New Hampshire because the state would be unable to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s mandate.
Prior to the federal requirements, driver education in New Hampshire was only contemplated for 16- and 17-year-olds because anyone over age 18 could get a license without formal training, according to Richard Bailey Jr., assistant commissioner of the state Department of Safety.
FMCSA now uses a Training Provider Registry to ensure entry-level drivers of commercial motor vehicles complete standardized training requirements, including classroom theory, before testing for certain commercial driver licenses and CDL endorsements.
Experiencing many legislative challenges in his 34-year career, Sculley said this situation was unique because he was able to work with the Senate, House and governor’s office to get legislation passed in less than 90 days despite learning late in the process about the urgent need for a new law.
In December, Sculley discovered the state legal technicality prevented truck drivers from complying with new federal entry level driver training (ELDT) regulations that took effect Feb. 7.
"Every measure must be taken to provide relief and cut through bureaucratic red tape that impedes our economy," says New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen)
He reached out to his congressional delegation for help. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wrote Dec. 23 to the FMCSA seeking a delay in the nationwide deadline. On Jan. 31, Shaheen led a joint announcement with Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas that the state was granted a 90-day waiver to resolve the statutory conflict and provide the Legislature with time to resolve the issue.
“As New Hampshire families and businesses grapple with the impact of supply chain disruptions, every measure must be taken to provide relief and cut through bureaucratic red tape that impedes our economy from recovering from the fallout of the pandemic. Increasing our commercial driving workforce is a key part of that effort,” Shaheen stated, adding that she made numerous calls seeking the waiver and voiced concern about the impact on the trucking workforce.
Host Michael Freeze speaks with TMC Chairman Randy Obermeyer and Brenda Neville of the Iowa Motor Truck Association about how to recruit young drivers and technicians. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
Although the state received the 90-day window, she urged the Legislature to move swiftly to address the issue to avoid additional problems.
“There were extra requirements that were prohibiting any of our members and anyone in the industry in New Hampshire from complying with that unless we changed the law. And we scrambled to do that,” Sculley said.
With a ticking clock, he learned the state deadline to file a new bill had passed. A creative option was made to insert a clause into a bill for boating-safety education. SB 307 was retitled to “the issuance of safe boater education certificates and commercial driving instruction.”
Jasen Stock, executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA), testified in support of the bill to get more trained truck drivers on the road. NHTOA, established in 1911, has more than 1,400 members representing land ownership of more than 1 million acres.
Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info
“Everything is moved on trucks,” Stock told Transport Topics. “Annually, about 3 million tons of forest products [logs and chips] in New Hampshire are moved to mills. It all goes on trucks.”
He said it was critical to get the legal technicality resolved because it was“impacting our ability to get logs to the sawmills, lumber to market and anyone moving forestry equipment.”
Now NHMTA can focus on helping its members help drivers through ELDT process.
“Most of our members are really tiny and small so they are going to rely heavily on us, and we’re going to help them,” Sculley said. “Most of our members do not have their own training or human resources so this mandate is really a big headache to this industry in the state of New Hampshire.”
Current challenges remain. He said it is taking eight to 10 weeks to get fingerprint results back for hazardous materials drivers.
“How are my guys supposed to deliver fuel in the wintertime?” he added. “We have 65% to 75% of the homes and businesses up here are heated with oil and propane.”