A new federal exemption will allow Wilson Logistics more flexibility for its drivers holding commercial learner’s permits (CLPs) to participate in revenue-generating loads.
The Springfield, Missouri-based carrier sought the exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to allow CLP holders who have passed the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test — but have not yet obtained the CDL document from the state where they live — to drive a truck without having a CDL holder in the passenger seat.
The CDL holder would still be in the vehicle at all times while the CLP holder is driving but would be allowed to rest in the sleeper berth. “This would allow the CLP holder to participate in a revenue-generating trip back to his or her state of domicile to obtain the CDL document,” the company stated. The 700-truck carrier advised FMCSA that 400-500 CLP holders would be covered by the exemption each year.
After analyzing Wilson Logistics’ application and public comments, the FMCSA determined that the exemption “will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption,” the agency ruled in a document to appear in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
“The key here is the fact that the trainee has achieved all the training they need for their CDL without having the physical document in their hand,” David Heller, vice president of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), which supported Wilson Logistics’ application, told FreightWaves.
Carriers must currently assign a second CDL holder to the vehicle to accomplish the on-duty work that previously was performed by the CLP holder who had a temporary CDL.
However, Wilson Logistics stated that complying with that rule leaves it with only two options: Either secure public transportation from the state of training to the state where the CLP holder lives to allow that driver to collect the CDL document before returning to the company, or route the team of drivers directly to the CLP holder’s domicile state, which Wilson Logistics contends is often against the natural flow of its freight network. Those options “are exceptionally cost intensive” the company argued in its application.
In arguing its case before FMCSA, Wilson Logistics noted that its CLP holders deliver actual loads to customers. “The obstacles of the job are trained on well in advance of [CLP holders] ever taking their CDL exam,” it stated. “This type of training far better prepares them for every part of the job, when compared to any typical school, which only trains them on a training pad and may include small amounts of driving within a short radius from the training site, usually contained in one city.”
Individual commenters opposed the idea, with one stating that the company “is just looking to profit off of this and seems not to care about the possible consequences of having a very inexperienced driver at the wheel while the trainer is asleep in the sleeper.”
But 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.”
The exemption is contingent upon Wilson Logistics maintaining its DOT registration, minimum levels of public liability insurance, and not being subject to any ‘‘imminent hazard’’ or other out-of-service orders, the agency said.
Similar exemptions have been granted and renewed in the past five years to C.R. England and CRST, FMCSA noted.