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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.

12 Comments

  1. As a former Werner driver I must say that this is by far the most reckless and unsafe act of a Mega Carrier that I have seen yet. To say that following the current guidelines will have an “undue financial hardship” for the company is just ludicrous. Werner in it’s Q2 earnings statement boasted a $640 million dollar earnings. Yet, Werner has tried to “deflect” the attention from them and say that the current guidelines will be a damper on the new drivers proficiency and earnings. I will say with confidence, Werner Enterprises has no comrade or driver appreciation for their drivers. For example, I was a trainer for Werner, Werner’s training criteria to say the least is dangerous and unsafe. The training for those with a CDL A who have graduated from a trucking school, Werner uses CBTs or computer based training. This entails the student to sit behind a computer and take tests (open book) and if he or she fails them, they have “unlimited” times to retake the test until they pass it. After these CBTs are completed, the student is then assigned a trainer who themselves in most cases only has six months of experience in driving a tractor trailer. This “trainer” who has very little to no experience is allowed to instruct a student who has absolutely no experience behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound Vehicle. The company will pressure the trainer by “hurring” the training and pressure the trainer to “sign off” on the student so both student and trainer can driver as a team and deliver more freight. This is what happened to me when I was a trainer. I have had my CDL for 30 years, however, I left the industry to pursue a career in Law Enforcement. I retired with twenty years of service to the federal government. When I started with Werner I was asked to become a trainer due to my time in law enforcement. I was pressured on a daily basis to sign off on the student, so that myself and the student could drive as a team. The student had never driven a large tractor trailer before and a situation happened where the student, as I was sleeping, was caught in a very bad rain storm. The truck started to hydroplane and the trailer started to slide into the other lane of travel. The student regained control and told me “after I woke up”. However, if the student did not have the frame of mind to take the actions he did that day, I would not be writing this post. Werner’s misrepresentation of the facts is nothing new. The company has never given consideration for their drivers nor has their drivers been ever fairly compensated for “all the drivers time”. Werner’s assertions that the company will loose revenue or profits if the student follows current guidelines to obtain their CLP is false and misleading. The working conditions, the way the students are treated and “corraled” in Werner’s contract hotels especially Werner’s Dallas Texas owned hotel on Werner’s property is horrible. Werner still uses the antiquated HHG model for pay or “household goods miles” when all decent trucking companies that are smaller than Werner has switched to “Practical Miles or HUB Miles or Hourly Pay”. Yet a multimillion dollar company where Derick Leathers the CEO of Werner Enterprises who makes Four million dollars a year and is a major investor along with banks cannot pay their drivers or adequately train their drivers to the best of their abilities and make sure that since Werner has the funds to do it incorporates “real world training solutions” for their new drivers.

  2. The main shortage of truck drivers is the DOT anti-truck drivers behavior, face it, as soon as you get your CDL yo became the most wanted Criminal in the USA soil, they chase you and if for any reason, something is wrong or no wrong, ex: if a car driver decided to get in front of your truck and slow down for texting, the truck driver will get a $250×2 ticket 1)for following too close, because you don’t have enough time to slow down, and if the trucker use the left lane to avoid an accident, 2)for using the left lane, most roads left lane is prohibited for trucks even in traffic back ups.
    Any ticket can cost up to $10,000, the HOS required that the driver take a break, that’s a good idea, BUT WHERE, there’s no ENOUGH PARKING, and if you have to use personal conveyance for 200 miles to find a parking $1,500 ticket and you are lying, even if that’s your own time. Trucks are sealed by the shipper & the driver has not idea of what’s in the load, STILL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHATEVER IS IN THE LOAD, why? we have no control over it, there’s radars/signs that shows your speed, BUT NOT EVEN ONE SINGLE SENSOR THAT SHOW THE WIND SPEED ON THE ROAD, a big truck enemy, WIND, no warning for ICE despite the danger this represent, excessive Insurance premium, So, become a trucker and support the DOT and Insurance companies, and the list is long, So, don’t complain for Trucks or Truck drivers shortage.
    Who wants to be on the road 3 months risking his/her live, accidents, getting sick in another state, OTR drivers can not even Carry a Legal weapon for self defense, when we have to stop to rest anywhere, because no parking, So anyone that asked me for advice to be a trucker, my answer, get another job and have a live, not worth it, food is very expensive, so whatever you make; or the DOT take it away or the expenses if not the insurance or the mechanic, or the parking, now most truck stops charge you $20 for 24 hrs parking + $15 one meal, $12 a shower, + if you are unlucky a $1,000 ticket for a tire at least. Plus other expenses🤔😳

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