Driver issuesNewsRegulation

New learner’s permit rule eases path to CDL

Photo Credit: FW Staff Photographer

The FMCSA has made it easier for those looking to obtain a commercial driver’s license in an action that could help get more drivers into the pipeline faster.

The new rule, announced on Dec. 21 and which goes into effect on Feb. 19 next year, gives state driver’s licensing agencies the option of issuing a commercial learner’s permit, or CLP, valid for up to one year from the date it’s issued, versus the current requirement of six months.

CLPs can be issued for periods shorter than one year and can be renewed, as long as the total period of time between the date of initial issuance and the date of expiration – with or without renewal – doesn’t exceed one year, according to the new rule. If drivers fail to get their CDL within the one-year period, he or she must reapply for a CLP by retaking the knowledge exams.

The agency pointed out that, for the states that choose to do so, making a learner’s permit valid for up to a year instead of six months “simply provides greater flexibility to CLP holders to train for and schedule the CDL skills test, without having to incur opportunity costs associated with the renewal of the CLP.”

Abigail Potter, manager of Safety and Occupational Health Policy at the ATA, said that allowing states to extend a valid CLP to a year instead of six months “will help reduce some of the stress and costs associated for individuals wanting to enter the industry,” she told FreightWaves.

“Additionally, the expanded time frame will help reduce the number of CLPs that would have to be reissued by [the states] and will help employers keep potential drivers on track to obtain their CDL,” Potter said. “ATA hopes that states will adopt this additional flexibility.”

The rule change was prompted by the state of Oregon, when it applied to FMCSA in 2015 for an exemption from the federal six-month requirement as a way of relieving learner permit holders from having to go to the DMV for an additional 180 days.

After finding that the exemption would allow Oregon and other states to improve operations while maintaining safety, FMCSA put out a formal rulemaking for comment last year.

Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, opposed the change, arguing that it could limit a driver’s wages by prevent them from receiving their CDL for up to six additional months. He also contended there was a safety issue, because it would allow carriers to put drivers on the road who had not received their CDL for longer periods of time.

But the agency responded that the association offered no data or explanation to support either claim.

Petitions to reconsider the rule must be submitted to the FMCSA no later than Jan. 22.

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

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.

5 Comments

  1. Why not let older drivers that got out of the industry back in without a pre trip name it and claim it game, some of us older guys that drove for years and let our cdl run out might like to get back in without starting out like we never drove before, it could still be called "Grandfather"

  2. This is laziness. I got my permit within a month of deciding to get it. Decided in August. Got it in September was fully licensed by October. Who needs a whole year to practice.

  3. Stupid idea. Make anybody that wants a CDL, work for it, I did! Why make it easier?

  4. "Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, opposed the change, arguing that it could limit a driver’s wages by prevent [sic] them from receiving their CDL for up to six additional months. He also contended there was a safety issue, because it would allow carriers to put drivers on the road who had not received their CDL for longer periods of time.

    "But the agency responded that the association offered no data or explanation to support either claim."

    NOTE: Further evidence here of how the OOIDA continues to marginalize its position in such debates, doing itself no favors when it comes to advancing the cause of the group’s credibility. And so much for any appearance of objectivity — and lack of extreme bias — on the part of OOIDA leadership. Would anyone be surprised to learn that, behind closed doors, FMCSA staff is practically preconditioned to discount by 90% anything that comes from the group? It’s truly regrettable. Oh well… Merry Christmas!!

  5. Todd Spencer is right this time. The industry continues to attract plenty of people to drive trucks and earn their CDLA. The problem is that they can’t keep them. So their solution is to get more through the pipeline. In essence they keep turning up the faucet and leaving the drain wide open. Close the drain. Treat drivers right. Problem solved.

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