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Federal trucking regulators have granted Werner Enterprises Inc. an exemption to allow a commercial learner permit holder who has successfully passed a commercial driver license skills test to operate a commercial vehicle without having a CDL holder observing from the front passenger seat.
Instead, the supervising CDL holder must only be in the truck, and will not be required to sit next to the driver.
In its exemption application last year, Werner contended that an exemption from the regulation would benefit Werner and the trucking industry in three ways: improving efficiency of freight operations by maximizing driver employment during a historic driver shortage; creating immediate employment and compensation opportunities to qualified drivers; and improving the overall safety of the new driver experience.
In a March 31 Federal Register post outlining the exemption, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it has previously granted similar exemptions to C.R. England in 2015, to CRST Expedited in 2016 and last year to Wilson Logistics.
FMCSA first made public Werner’s petition request in August 2021.
In its petition, Werner said under the prior requirements it was unable to immediately employ a new driver without a temporary CDL. Without a temporary CDL, Werner said it must choose either to wait for the new driver to obtain a CDL from his or her home state before commencing freight movement in an “on-duty” status, or send the new driver home in an unproductive, nondriving capacity.
“The outcome is an inefficiency in the supply chain and a lost employment opportunity for the driver,” Werner added. “Furthermore, because some states take days or weeks to properly document and update the status of a driver’s license after passing the CDL skills test, Werner is again unable to employ the new driver without requiring the second driver enter an ‘on duty’ status in the front seat of the CMV.”
Under the exemption, Werner must notify FMCSA within five business days of any accident involving any of the CMVs operating under the terms of the exemption. The notification also must include a variety of information ranging from accident police reports to a variety of driver information related to the accident.
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The agency received 25 public comments on the Werner petition.
Those that opposed Werner’s request consisted of truck drivers, driver-trainers, other individuals and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “These respondents do not believe that it is safe for a CLP holder to operate a CMV without the supervision of a CDL driver-trainer in the front seat of the truck,” FMCSA said.
The Agriculture Transportation Coalition, American Trucking Associations, Idaho-Oregon Fruit and Vegetable Association, Truckload Carriers Association, and some truck drivers and individuals submitted comments supporting Werner’s application for exemption, the agency said.