Posted April 3, 2020

FMCSA Lifts Driver Permit Restrictions

By Grace Tino

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in massive shifts across the US and global economy. On March 13th, the crisis reached new levels when President Trump declared it a national emergency. For transportation companies, this shift is an increase in volume to meet consumer demands as well as medical. Hiring within the transportation and logistics space, in result, jumped up 7% from February to Mid-March. Recently, the FMCSA stepped in to aid these companies in their driver employment solution by releasing a temporary waiver allowing commercial learner's permit (CLP) holders to operate amidst the pandemic. "Given the national emergency, there is a public need for immediate transportation of essential supplies, equipment, and persons, which requires an adequate and sustained supply of drivers eligible to operate a CMV," stated the FMCSA in their waiver, published on March 28th.

The waiver, which was effective on March 28th, will end after 3 months on June 30th, unless the declaration of national emergency is revoked by the President beforehand. The waiver stipulates that CLP holders can operate given a CDL driver is present in the cab with them for the duration of operation. In a way, a rookie driver can think of this as the final touch in his/her skills learning, as one would normally have with an experienced mentor in final training regardless.

In response to the multiple SDLA facility closures from the COVID-19 health concerns, the waiver includes that CLP holders may also take skills tests at remaining open facilities in states other than their state of training, Currently, there are 22 states with closed DMV facilities. In the case the driver possesses evidence of their skills assessment from one of these third-party testers, along with a non-CDL license, medical examination certificate, CLP holders may operate without a CDL driver in the front seat, so long as one is in the cab during that time.

The FMCSA emphasized that the measures outlined in the waiver are due to the essential role drivers play in the country's safety and infrastructure during the pandemic. Drivers hold a crucial role during the national emergency- the waiver is not only in the interest of drivers and carriers, but for public interest as well. The FMCSA wrote: "FMCSA finds that the granting of this waiver is in the public interest, given CDL and CLP holders' critical role in delivering necessary property and passengers... This waiver is in the public interest because it would allow drivers covered under this waiver to deliver essential supplies and persons across State lines to address the national emergency."

This waiver offers a unique solution to driver hiring for the many companies struggling to find drivers to fill seats of those on leave or to handle increased capacity. For drivers, it opens doors to opportunities, particularly to those CLP holders previously unable to procure their CDL simply due to closures of their State Driver Licensing Agencies. CLP holders now possess the opportunity to obtain their CDL, but to gain valuable operating experience even without one. Most importantly, drivers with the qualifying documentation and experience can step up to be solo drivers and aid in the COVID-19 crisis.

To read more on steps to start operating under the waiver, visit the official release here.