There’s been a lot of movement lately where military truck drivers are concerned. It appears the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is setting out to clarify and seek comment on several new proposals related to military truck drivers transitioning into the civilian trucking industry.
First up, the FMCSA is looking to launch an interstate pilot program designed for military-trained truck drivers who happen to be under 21 years of age. Proposed in mid-August, the FAST Act-stipulated program would clear the way for truckers under 21 to operate their vehicles across state lines provided they have prior experience operating large vehicles in the military.
Under-21 Pilot Program for Military Truck Drivers
The current rule only allows for under-21 CDL holders to drive intrastate. Now open for public comment, the agency wants to know what you think about this proposed change. Of course, there are other details to consider.
As part of the proposal, the FMCSA mandates that any under-21 truck drivers in the pilot program must be sponsored by a motor carrier. The same motor carrier must also have an over-21 truck driver with similar training and experience operating as part of a control group.
At the end of the three-year pilot, the FMCSA will then look at the safety records of both groups. If it appears that there are safety issues in the under-21 group, it might be determined that age does represent a critical safety factor.
Motor carriers participating in the pilot program must have an electronic logging device installed in all the vehicles used by either the pilot or the control group. The FMCSA is also considering requiring carriers to install onboard monitoring systems, but hasn’t finalized that yet.
CDL Waiver for Military Truck Drivers
The second dive into military truck drivers and transitioning into the civilian workforce surrounds the CDL test. Currently, states can waive the general knowledge test needed to obtain a CDL if the person taking the test has either current or former military experience.
On October 27, the FMCSA issued a two-year exemption to that rule. The exemption essentially allows military truck drivers to list their time operating a military vehicle as training credit. The FMCSA acknowledged the many hours of classroom and practical skills training military truck drivers undergo every day.
The new exemption still leaves the power in states’ hands, however. State driver licensing agencies will be able to choose whether to waive the knowledge test. States will also be given assistance in setting up programs to verify the eligibility of applicant participants.
There are also requirements surrounding who can apply for the extension:
- Current or former military members
- National Guard
- Have been regularly employed within a year of the application
- Have received formal military training related to the duty being applied for
This rule is yet another rule designed to help military personnel ease into civilian life and get jobs within the trucking industry.
The FMCSA has also given military personnel who drove large commercial vehicles a full year to apply for a skills test waiver. This is an increase over the prior rules 90 days.
The new rule also allows states to accept applications from active-duty military members provided they are stationed in that state. States will also be allowed to administer a learner’s or CDL written and skills test, and then electronically transfer the results to either the applicant or the licensing board, if the state so wishes.
Overall, these changes represent positive moves from the FMCSA, designed to make it easier for the hard-working men and women of our nation’s armed forces to get secure, rewarding jobs with motor carriers and build their trucking careers. That certainly can never be a bad thing.