The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted C.R. England an exemption from the provisions in the federal code that require a commercial learner's permit (CLP) holder to be accompanied by a CDL holder in the front seat while driving, according to a notice published Thursday in the Federal Register. The coast-to-coast refrigerated specialist had argued that the exemption would allow such a driver to operate more freely and in a way that benefits the driver, the carrier, and the economy as a whole, according to the filing.
“As the FMCSA is well aware, the trucking industry is desperately in need of qualified and well-trained drivers to meet the ever-growing demand for shipping needs. However, [the CLP regulation] limits C.R. England’s ability to effectively and efficiently recruit, train, and employ new entrants to the industry,” the request stated. “The exemption is requested due to the significant burden that this rule may create on the driver supply for C.R. England.”
As the company explained, prior to the implementation of the regulation states routinely issued temporary CDLs to drivers who had successfully passed a CDL skills test in their state. The temporary CDL allowed C.R. England to route the new driver to their state of domicile to obtain a final CDL.
This in turn permitted the carrier to place the new driver into an on-the-job training position with as part of a productive team truck.
FMCSA agreed. The favorable decision pointed out that if the CLP holders had obtained their training and CLPs in their home state, they could have immediately obtained their CDL at the state driver licensing agency and could have begun driving without any on-board supervision.
“There is no quantitative data or other information that having a CDL holder accompany a CLP holder who has passed the skills test improves safety,” FMCSA said.
Public comments in favor of the petition came from American Trucking Assns. (ATA) and several truck driver training schools and organizations.
“Because such drivers have already successfully passed both knowledge and skills tests, they could be presumed to have demonstrated safety performance equally as safe as a driver holding a CDL,” ATA wrote. “Only formalities in the drivers' state of domicile prevent the driver from already holding such a credential. Therefore, ATA encourages FMCSA to grant the proposed exemption.”
But the 11 comments in support were outnumbered by 257 in opposition, including the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and numerous drivers and trainees.
CVSA summarized its opposition to the exemption by stating that “granting yet another regulatory exception only serves to confound law enforcement and industry's understanding of the rules. Every exception and change to regulations requires additional training for inspectors, resulting in the potential for a higher level of confusion surrounding the applicability of the regulations.”
OOIDA stated that, as a general policy, the small business trucking organization does not believe FMCSA should exempt large motor carriers from the agency's CDL training-related regulations.
“Given the open nature of FMCSA's driver training rulemaking, it is certainly conceivable that the issues raised by CRE in its exemption request could be considered under that process, along with the broad scope of issues covered under the process by which a new driver obtains a CDL,” OOIDA said.
The exemption is good for two years from the date of publication.