FMCSA proposes rule to help vets get CDL

Facing a mounting shortage of drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a proposed rule that would make it easier for military veterans with trucking experience to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Published in the Federal Register March 16, the proposed rule would extend the time period for applying for a skills waiver from 90 days to one year after leaving a military job that required operating a commercial vehicle.

FMCSA reported last year that more than 100,000 former military truck drivers had taken advantage of the 90-day skills waiver since it was introduced in 2011. FMCSA hopes extending the period to one year would assist veterans in the transition process and increase the number of drivers entering the industry.

Under the proposed rule, states could accept and administer written and skills tests to active duty military stationed in their states. States could then electronically transmit test results to the applicant’s home state, where either a CDL or commercial learner’s permit (CLP) would be issued.

The agency said it believes this rulemaking would “simplify the task of obtaining a CDL without jeopardizing any benefits associated with a service member’s official state of domicile, or the single-domicile/single issuer concept that has been essential to the CDL program since the beginning.”

FMCSA says the rule also permits CMV drivers in the military to apply for CLPs and CDLs “without running the risk of inadvertently changing their state of domicile.”

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), passed in 2012, required FMCSA to perform a study that assessed federal and state regulatory, economic and administrative challenges faced by members and former members of the military who operated commercial vehicles while in service in obtaining a commercial license.

Additionally, the FAST Act, passed in December, requires FMCSA to (1) exempt certain ex-military from the CDL skills test if they had CMV driving experience in the military, (2) extend the skills test waiver to one year and (3) credit the CMV training military drivers receive in the military toward applicable CDL training and knowledge requirements. This proposed rule would take care of the first two of the three requirements. FMCSA said the third requirement will need additional rulemaking.

FMCSA said the proposed rule “would ease the current burdens on military personnel applying for CLPs and CDLs.”

The agency is seeking public comment on the proposed rule, which can be made by searching Docket No. FMCSA-2016-0051 at

FMCSA said the proposed rule will accomplish the following:

  • Demonstrate FMCSA’s commitment to serving veterans and assist in efforts to attract and retain skilled commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.
  • Provide military personnel with a time extension to apply for a skills test waiver and also permit active duty military personnel to apply and be tested for their commercial learner’s permits and commercial driver’s license in the State where they are stationed.
  • Establish a process that allows veteran operators to obtain their DOT medical certification exams from their Department of Veterans Affairs physician.
  • Provide a CMV Operator Safety Training grant program that will provide grant funds to commercial driver training schools that train veterans to transition into civilian motor carrier careers.
  • Enable a federal military pilot program that will allow select military personnel between 18-21 years of age to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

“FMCSA believes that this would give former military personnel a better opportunity to obtain a CDL in a way that will not negatively affect safety,” the agency report states.

“Additionally, it would reduce travel time and other costs associated with traveling to the state of domicile for testing,” FMCSA continued. “The motor carrier industry would also benefit from a larger supply of licensed CMV drivers.”