The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 24 issued a limited waiver for commercial drivers whose commercial licenses/permits and/or medical cards have expired or are set to expire after March 1, 2020. The waiver, effective immediately and valid through June 30, comes in response to state Department of Motor Vehicles and medical clinic closures that have made it difficult for commercial drivers to renew expiring licenses and medical cards in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The transportation law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary points out that the waiver is not a blanket exception to the licensing or medical card requirements, meaning that commercial drivers must still hold a license of the type appropriate for the vehicles they are operating and must also have been deemed physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle by a certified medical examiner. Rather, the waiver merely extends to June 30, 2020, the expiration dates on licenses and medical cards that have expired or are set to expire between March 1 and June 30.
The waiver does not apply to:
- licenses that expired prior to March 1;
- drivers whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked;
- drivers who never obtained a medical certification in the first place;
- drivers who, since their last medical examination, have developed a medical condition that would disqualify them from operating a commercial motor vehicle; or
- drivers whose expiring medical card was valid for a period of fewer than 90 days.
The FMCSA also issued an Enforcement Notice, explaining that it will forego enforcement action against drivers and motor carriers that fall under the terms of the waiver.
“Carriers should beware that the Enforcement Notice does not necessarily preclude individual states from enforcing the prohibitions on operating a commercial motor vehicle without a valid, non-expired license, so attention should be paid to individual states, some of which have issued their own extensions of license expirations,” Scopelitis noted.
The American Trucking Associations issued a press release thanking the FMCSA for this action. “While America’s truck drivers are out delivering the essential medical supplies, food and other goods we need to combat this virus, FMCSA has taken an important step to let drivers and carriers know how to address things like expired commercial drivers’ licenses or medical cards,” said ATA Vice President of Safety Policy Dan Horvath. “With state governments moving to remote work and shuttering offices, drivers will need assistance to continue moving critical goods safely, and today’s guidance is a step toward ensuring those trucks keep moving.”