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FMCSA cites safety record in granting CRST’s CDL exemption

5-year renewal will continue to give carrier team-driver flexibility

CRST safety has not been compromised by CDL exemption, FMCSA ruled. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

WASHINGTON — Lack of evidence that a CDL exemption has led to safety downgrades prompted federal regulators to conditionally approve on Friday a second five-year renewal of that exemption to CRST.

The Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based trucking company — known formally as CRST The Transportation Solution — was originally granted the exemption by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2016. FMCSA granted CRST a five-year renewal in 2018.

Like similar exemptions granted to other carriers, it allows CRST to get immediate use out of new drivers who have passed the required driving skills testing in one state but have yet to receive a copy of their CDL that must be issued to them from the department of motor vehicles (DMV) in the state where they live.

Current regulations require that commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders be accompanied in the front seat by an on-duty CDL holder. The exemption from this regulation means the CDL holder can now be off duty — potentially in the cab’s sleeper berth.

“CRST believes the exemption will promote greater productivity and efficiency in freight operations, while helping qualified drivers enter the workplace in a timely way by bypassing the delays associated with obtaining a hard copy CDL from the appropriate DMV,” the company stated.

In a joint comment in support of CRST’s 2018 exemption renewal, the American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association pointed out that “as the new driver became productive immediately as a team driver … CRST was able to move more freight and the new driver was able to earn more, more quickly.” CRST team drivers earn up to $200,000 per year, according to the carrier’s website.

In approving the renewal conditionally — those who disagree with the exemption have 30 days to comment on CRST’s application — FMCSA stated that it is “unaware of any evidence of a degradation of safety attributable to the current exemption for CRST drivers. There is no indication of an adverse impact on safety while CRST drivers have been operating under the terms and conditions specified in the initial exemption or 2018 exemption renewal.”

Aside from ATA and TCA, however, CRST received little support for either its initial exemption request or its 2018 renewal. 

“This is absolutely horrifying,” stated one commenter responding to CRST’s request in 2015.

“Do you really want your family and loved ones on the road with people who aren’t properly trained? The people who decide these things really need to put their families in a car in the same vicinity with the drivers who haven’t been properly trained and see how that goes. Our roadways are dangerous enough, please don’t make it worse.”

But FMCSA ruled in 2016 and in its 2018 renewal approval that CRST drivers “would likely achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption.”

“Because these drivers have already met all the requirements for a CDL, but have yet to pick up the CDL document from their State of domicile, their safety performance is expected to be the same as any other newly credentialed CDL holder. Additionally, having a CDL driver accompany the CLP driver who has successfully passed all required CDL skills testing and prerequisites, provides some additional supervision that is otherwise not required for newly credentialed CDL drivers in physical possession of the CDL document.”

CRST, which owns 4,000 power units, according to its application, hires approximately 2,000 entry-level drivers per year who have graduated from CRST-affiliated training centers.

It estimates that 1,000 new drivers per year will operate a truck under the terms of the exemption, which goes into effect this Sept. 24 and expires on Sept. 24, 2028.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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  1. T

    Wonder what congressman pockets are padded. I been driving for 27 years, and crst (crash n roll stunt team ) is one of the most unsafe companies out there ; like western and swift.

  2. Frederick Alan Starnes

    1993, I started driving for CRST I pretty much had prior experience dealing with tractor trailers and dump trucks school buses to tour bus when I went to CRST because of the CDL I really appreciate the time and school the class educating us on the laws and rules and regulations of being a CDL driver especially the time that they took on the tarmac to make sure we understood what we were doing and handling this vehicle safely at all times even though now I am not with CRST working with other companies I still appreciate all the CRST did for me now that I am older I see it was a good company I should have stayed you know how we do drivers chasing the rabbit Down The Highway by its tail stay safe everyone be that professional that they know we aren’t

  3. Chris Stumler

    What a major con-artist company CRST is and the FMCAS is definitely gullible and being fooled to no end! I worked for this company and seen 1st hand how deceptive they are everyday. They falsify logs validated by drivers to make sure they’re in compliance! Unbelievable!

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.