Senators Spotlight Veterans in New CDL Bill

CDL driver training
A student and instructor practicing at a commercial driving school. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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Legislation designed to guarantee approval of veterans benefits without delay at certain commercial driving schools was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) sponsored the bill with the aim of facilitating access to nearby commercial driver license (CDL) schools for veterans around the country.

“Veterans have already given so much for our country — the last thing they need is more frustrating red tape that prevents them from pursuing a career that is essential to our modern economy,” Fischer said Sept. 12. She is the ranking member on the Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight and Ports Subcommittee.

“These technical changes will reverse unnecessary regulations and allow more veterans to take advantage of their GI benefits,” Fischer continued.

Specifically, the legislation would seek to ensure accredited CDL schools are able to provide courses at their new branches without a two-year waiting period for certain veterans benefits to be approved.

“Our veterans deserve access to resources and opportunities to support themselves and their families after serving,” said Padilla, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee on surface transportation. “This bill not only supports our service members by expanding work opportunities, it would also help keep goods moving throughout our nation as we continue to face supply chain challenges.”

“And it will expand their veterans GI Bill benefits to help them pursue educational and career training opportunities, while maintaining strong accrediting standards for institutions,” Padilla added.

American Trucking Associations is among the stakeholders endorsing the bill. ATA recently determined the industry is short about 80,000 commercial drivers. “This legislation is a win-win,” said ATA President Chris Spear. “It supports our nation’s heroes in their pursuit of rewarding careers as they transition out of military service, and it expands our industry’s access to this exceptional pool of talent as we need to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade. We thank Sens. Fischer and Padilla for standing with America’s veterans and the men and women who keep our economy rolling.”

The senators said other groups endorsing the bill included the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Moving Veterans Forward, Werner Enterprises, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, and the Nebraska Trucking Association.

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars is proud to lend its support to this proposal for veterans seeking commercial driver education programs. This bill could help reduce nationwide supply chain shortages and veteran underemployment. The VFW thanks Sens. Fischer and Padilla for their bipartisan efforts to address this multifaceted challenge,” said MaCherie Dunbar, associate director of the VFW’s national legislative service, in a statement accompanying the bill’s announcement.

The legislation was referred to a committee with jurisdiction for consideration. For more than a year, the Senate Commerce Committee has met for hearings to examine post-pandemic freight supply chain concerns. Members of the panel also have introduced or sponsored legislation during the Biden administration meant to facilitate the flow of freight along key freight corridors.

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