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    131.000
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Driver issuesNewsTop StoriesTrucking Regulation

Werner: Exemption will get drivers employed faster amid ‘historic driver shortage’

Company tells FMCSA that freight operations will also be enhanced if application is approved

Werner Enterprises is banking on a commercial learner’s permit (CPL) exemption not only to boost operational productivity but to help the company get its drivers employed faster.

In an application filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in July, the Omaha, Nebraska-based truckload carrier asserted current federal regulations are keeping it from immediately employing new drivers because drivers are no longer issued a temporary CDL after passing the CDL skills test.

Temporary CDLs previously allowed companies like Werner [NASDAQ: WERN] to immediately designate a new driver as “on duty” in order to drive to his or her home state to get CDL documentation without an accompanying second driver in “on-duty” status.

But with no temporary CDL available under the current regime, “Werner 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 non-driving capacity,” the company stated. “The outcome is an inefficiency in the supply chain and a lost employment opportunity for the driver.”

In addition, Werner stated that because some states take “days or weeks” to update the status of a driver’s license after passing the CDL skills test, the company faces another set of delays.

“This administrative waiting period, or ‘down time’ between a learned skill and active employment, causes a host of issues, to include the following: exacerbating cost and inefficiency problems for the carrier; presenting a financial hardship for the new driver; and causing possible degradation of the new driver’s professional skill set.”

If issued an exemption from current regulations, however, freight operations would be improved and qualified drivers would be immediately employed and compensated “during an historic driver shortage,” Werner stated. “Werner will face a significant burden … if this exemption is not granted.”

In February, FMCSA approved a similar exemption requested by Springfield, Missouri-based Wilson Logistics. Some individual commenters opposed the application, with one stating that the company is merely looking to boost profits at the risk of having an inexperienced driver at the wheel.

FMCSA responded that because the drivers have already met all the requirements for a CDL but just need to pick up the document from their home state, “their safety performance is expected to be the same as any other newly-credentialed CDL holder.”

Werner, which states in its application that it graduates approximately 6,500 new drivers each year through its partnership with Roadmaster Drivers School at 18 locations in the U.S., intends for the exemption to apply only to drivers who passed the CDL skills test, hold a CLP, and operate a truck under supervision of a CDL holder who is somewhere in the vehicle but not necessarily in the front seat.

“By allowing a CLP holder who has passed the CDL skills test to drive en route to a state of domicile with a CDL holder present in the vehicle, this exemption will improve safety over current regulations, which allow the new CDL holder to drive unsupervised immediately after receiving his or her CDL documentation.”

A 30-day public comment period begins on Werner’s application after FMCSA posts a public notice in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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.

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