Fleet Management

States Ease CDL Restrictions for Military

March 07, 2013

By Oliver Patton

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In the past two years, 34 states have adopted laws that allow motor vehicle departments to waive the CDL skills test for qualified military veterans, the Obama administration says in a new report.

Nine more states plus the District of Columbia are considering legislation to do the same thing. And under a new law, states may issue commercial licenses to military personnel who live in another state.

These are several of a number of initiatives under way to help relieve the driver shortage in the truckload industry.

There also is a glimmer of more relief on the horizon, if Congress can pass a comprehensive immigration reform package. Under consideration, for example, is a measure that would establish a guest worker status so former illegals could obtain a CDL.

According to the White House report, The Fast Track to Civilian Employment, there are more than 22,000 active duty drivers in the military and nearly 10,000 became civilians last year.

Military service can instill skills that are desirable for truck drivers, discipline not the least of them, but clearly not all of those driving specialists are interested in commercial trucking.

There are no exact numbers on how many do want to work for a fleet or own their own truck, so it’s hard to say how big a dent these veterans can put in the shortage of drivers, said Boyd Stephenson, director of HazMat and Licensing Policy at American Trucking Associations.

Doesn't Transfer Directly

And the hands-on driving skills that service members learn do not necessarily transfer directly to civilian trucking. The military, for example, does not train to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, Stephenson said.

Nor are military drivers exposed to commercial-style equipment, said Cindy Atwood, deputy director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, which represents private truck driver training schools. 

“You can’t take someone directly out of the military and put him in an 18-wheeler,” she said. “About 80% of commercial trucks have manual transmissions, while 98% of military trucks have automatics.”

And more than 95% of military trucks qualify only as Class B trucks, Stephenson noted. 

But the federal-state effort to ease the path between military and commercial trucking is useful, he said.

The skills test waiver, for example, makes it possible for a safe military driver who meets several conditions to skip the CDL driving test.

Besides a proven safety record in the military equivalent of a commercial truck, the driver cannot have held more than one license in the preceding two years, cannot have had his license suspended, and cannot have a conviction for a CDL offense.

Stephenson also underscored the usefulness of allowing states to exempt military personnel from restrictions on issuing a CDL to someone whose legal residence is in another state.

Procedures for this exemption may vary from state to state, but the overall effect will be to make CDLs more accessible to military drivers, the White House report said.

Success in Virginia

The report also touches on what Stephenson described as the most effective initiative of all, Virginia’s Troops to Trucks Program.

The partnership unites military bases such as the Marine Corps’ Quantico and the Army’s Fort Lee, local community colleges, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Trucking Association.

The DMV supplies a mobile CDL unit and the trucking association supplies tractor-trailers that visit the bases so military drivers can get experience on Class A equipment. This, Stephenson said, makes the skills test waiver more useful.

“Those guys and girls are going to end up getting Class A CDLs, which makes them far more employable than someone with a Class B license.”


  1. 1. Bay0Wulf [ March 08, 2013 @ 05:02AM ]

    So ... they say there is a driver shortage.

    Interesting. It used to be that when you called a company and asked about the critical "miles" which is how we get paid, they would lie and tell you 3500 to 3800 per/wk no problem ... if you actually got 2500 to 2800 you were doing good (something along the lines of $320 or so less per week ... $16.6k p/yr) and you were supposed to be happy anyway.

    Today when you call in to ask they hem and they haw and they don't give an answer. The driver is still reponsible for every little thing including lousy loads, crummy dispatch, screwed up time/miles.

    Only now they won't even lie to you about the fact you are going to make nothing ... or maybe just a little bit more.

    Tell me where it makes sense that I carry a CDL-A with HazMat and get to sit in .... IOWA waiting for a load to be magically available ... and don't make enough miles to pay my basic bills? Oh ... right ... its nobody's fault ... its just the way it is.

  2. 2. OTRDriver [ March 08, 2013 @ 06:55AM ]

    Not so sure how I feel about this.. I don't see a problem with Military Personnel getting a CDL with out a "skills" test but since most of the Military Vehicles are Class B and automatic transmissions I'm just wondering how helpful this will be.. I guess they have been away from home and family for extended periods of time and used to that.. and the pay and benefits suck at both so I guess this could work..

  3. 3. MissSmallFleetOwner [ March 08, 2013 @ 11:03AM ]

    But what is being offered to those who do more than operate a commercial truck? What is being offer to those drivers who KNOW trucking, have been driving for years, and have been squashed out of the market thanks to CSA 2010 and the impact the new regulations have had on carriers?
    Carriers are gun shy to even consider drivers who are looking to work- which nonetheless makes the carriers thousands of dollars a month. I have heard of tax exemptions available for companies who hire military personnel... is that not enough? Why lower the bar with this additional exemption, if CSA 2010 was so damned neccessary? CSA 2010 was a terribly destructive thing for our economy, overall.
    We need to invest in the quality of existing drivers, incentivize companies who have effective training maintenance and assessment programs built into their operations, and create an environment where strong drivers (as well as new drivers with high potential) are valued. Whenever the USDOT audits a carrier and finds violations, the USDOT always just want to know "What are you going to do to improve in this area?" Therefore, why not proactively rather than reactively encourage carriers to strenghten driver quality?
    Unfortunately our country has for too long treated poorly their lower wages Americans, their military, as well as the blood that runs through the veins of this country and keeps its heart beating- truck drivers. Sadly, many drivers are all three of those at once! The new exemptions do nothing but increase the number of individuals whom carriers and brokers can stealthily exploit.

  4. 4. Al [ September 27, 2013 @ 10:59AM ]

    Well I'm an employer looking for drivers. My company starts paying students coming from school 40 cent a mile. for experiences drivers is 40
    +. Terminal is in Northern Kentucky you have miles as many as you want and your hours allow. You need to have double trailer endorsement. if you are looking for work email me at [email protected]

  5. 5. Jake [ May 19, 2014 @ 04:43PM ]

    Military members who drive T&T as there mos 3533,34,36 USMC and 88mm Army (amk 31- LVSR-16 with 870E&S, 970 Comination, PLST or wrecker) are driving Class A vahicles. There is absolutely no arguing that. Most of these are automatic , but that alone should not disqualify a direct transfer. If a service member can not drive a manual, I am sure the said individual will catch on quickly or face unemployment. However there are many fleet vehicles that are automatic. My employer has 20% of his tractors automatic. No not every servicmember rates a class A . Only those who drove the military equivalent.

  6. 6. Sean [ October 05, 2014 @ 05:02AM ]

    Every tractor trailer I drove for AFSOC was a manual. In fact my time in the military, I never saw an automatic 10 ton. Be that as it is, I was also a tractor trailer trainer for all the new kids. I tried to get it on my license after getting out, they told me I had to get a commander letter for the dmv and still had to go through the schooling. I drove in convoys outside the wire in afghanistan in one, im sure I could havdle Florida traffic haha. I think a short class to inform and teach prior service members about the civilian and federal laws used in civilian truck drivig would be understandable, but to have to go through a school that teaches me how to drive what I taught others how to drive just seems like a waste of time and money on my part.


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