January 8, 2021 11:15 AM, EST

PennDOT Says Licensing Law Will Increase Safety, Opportunities for Drivers

snow plowJonathanLesage/Getty Images

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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently commended a new state law related to licensing and credentialing that includes provisions associated with commercial driver license holders.

In a Jan. 6 announcement, PennDOT stated the legislation, which updated certain CDL requirements, will improve roadway safety. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the law, called Act 131, in November. The provisions of the law related to commercial truck drivers will take effect early this year.

With regard to charges, the law states a commercial motor vehicle driver holding a Pennsylvania-issued license who is cited, arrested or charged with violating a traffic control ordinance must notify his or her employer in writing within 30 days of the date of receiving the citation or being officially charged. An employer who receives timely notice from an employee on such a matter may not terminate the employee solely for providing the notice (unless the employee is convicted of the violation).

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“In my professional opinion, most companies that support a safety culture require drivers to notify their managers within 24 hours of the receipt of a traffic citation,” Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association Director of Safety John Rigney said. “In these days of ‘nuclear verdicts,’ it is paramount that motor carriers protect themselves by eliminating the detonators.”

Additionally, the law outlines a situation in which a person who has not obtained a CDL may operate a truck. Specifically, it states that a driver who is 18 or older and employed by a “political subdivision” may operate a truck within the boundaries of the subdivision for the purpose of removing snow by plowing, sanding or salting, provided the properly licensed employee who ordinarily operates a truck for that purpose is unable to do so or the political subdivision determines that a snow emergency exists and requires additional assistance.

“The driver must have a certificate of authorization from the head of the political subdivision while operating the commercial motor vehicle,” the text of Act 131 states.

The law also states PennDOT will disqualify an individual from operating a truck for life upon receiving a record of conviction indicating that person used a truck to commit a felony involving human trafficking. This provision is in line with a final rule the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued in 2019 that permanently banned CMV drivers who have been convicted of human trafficking.


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The licensing provisions included in the legislation extend beyond issues related to truck drivers. The law also makes it possible for homeless Pennsylvanians to be issued a free photo identification card. Those individuals will be required to apply in person at a state licensing center.

The legislation also provides a program that outlines measures to allow eligible people who need bioptic telescope lenses to qualify for and obtain a driver’s license. Bioptic telescope lenses, which other states also have authorized, make images larger and help individuals with low vision see clearer and farther away.

According to PennDOT, the agency is developing the program’s training and licensure process. The agency will implement the program in September.

“This new law makes significant changes to increasing many of our residents’ independence, ultimately enhancing their quality of life,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said.

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