Photo via C.R. England

Photo via C.R. England

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted C.R. England an exemption from a training rule regarding drivers with a commercial learner’s permit.

The rule requires drivers with a CLP to be accompanied by a commercial driver’s license holder seated in the front seat of the vehicle while undergoing behind-the-wheel training on public roads. With the exemption, a learner's permit holder who has documentation of passing the CDL skills test does not need to have a CDL driver in the front seat.

This change would allow CLP holders to drive as part of a team and give them the same flexibility as CDL drivers while they wait to obtain their CDL from their state DMV.  With the exemption, learner's permit holders will be able to be productive sooner, saving the company costs and increasing their productivity prior to obtaining a full CDL. C.R. England requested the exemption on the basis of the trucking industry’s need for qualified, well-trained drivers.

“The exemption is not seeking a reprieve from any testing or training standards, but instead is seeking to allow qualified drivers to begin providing for their families rather than having to cut through unnecessary bureaucratic red tape,” stated C.R. England.

Drivers who have a CLP and have passed the CDL skills test are as functionally qualified as CDL holders; they simply haven’t received their CDL from a licensing agency, contended C.R. England in asking for the exemption.

The FMCSA held a public comment period on this decision before granting the exemption in which they received 274 comments from several transportation companies and associations.

The American Trucking Associations was among those commenting, endorsing C.R. England’s exemption.

“Because such drivers have already successfully passed both knowledge and skills tests, they could be presumed to have demonstrated safety performance equally as safe as a driver holding a CDL,” stated the ATA. “Only formalities in the drivers’ state of domicile prevent the driver from already holding such a credential.”

Not everyone who commented backed up C.R. England’s request, including groups like the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The CVSA stated that “granting yet another regulatory exception only serves to confound law enforcement and the industry’s understanding of the rules.”

OOIDA stated that the the owner-operator group, "as a general policy, does not believe FMCSA should exempt large motor carriers from the agency’s CDL training-related regulations.”

Ultimately, the FMCSA granted the exemption, agreeing with C.R. England’s argument that a commercial learner's permit holder who has passed the CDL skills is no different than a driver who has recently received their CDL.

“There is no quantitative data or other information that having a CDL holder accompany a CLP holder who has passed the skills test improves safety,” stated the FMCSA. “Because these drivers have passed the CDL skills test, the only thing necessary to obtain the CDL is to apply at the Department of Motor Vehicles in their State of domicile.”