Congress Relaxes CDL Rule to Help Veterans Find Jobs

HEADLINE: Congress Relaxes CDL Rule to Help Veterans Find Jobs  Byline: Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

A bill Congress passed last month would open more job opportunities for veterans by allowing members of the military to obtain commercial driver licenses in the states where they’re stationed, even if they are away from home, the bill’s supporters said.

The Military Commercial Driver’s License Act of 2012 would carve out an exemption to regulations that currently require a CDL applicant to take the necessary tests and obtain the license in his home state. Members of the military frequently are stationed at bases outside of their home states, said Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), who sponsored the measure.

President Obama had not signed the bill as of last week. The White House did not say whether Obama would sign it, though the Department of Transportation cheered the legislation.

“This legislation aids our veterans in finding work after their military service by cutting red tape and streamlining the CDL process,” Bucshon said in a Sept. 28 statement after the House passed the bill.

“Our servicemen and women have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and trucking companies have one of the largest amounts of job openings in our workforce. This common-sense, bipartisan bill will help our military service men and women find good jobs in Indiana and will help move more commerce across our nation,” Bucshon said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires CDL applicants to be legal residents of the states where they apply, which Bucshon said is a barrier to military applicants.

In addition to allowing military members to apply in the states where they serve, the Military CDL Act allows the Department of Defense to work with states to issue CDLs itself. That provision is meant to take advantage of the training that some members of the military receive to drive heavy vehicles.

“We have a chance to help members of our military put their training to good use after their service ends,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a Sept. 25 statement after the Senate passed the measure.

“This is a win-win for our men and women in uniform and the American economy, and I am pleased the Senate acted on this bill.” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) also sponsored the Senate legislation and introduced it earlier this year.

The bill received widespread praise from the trucking industry.

“Trucking already faces the beginnings of a driver shortage and, with increases in freight demand, as well as demographic changes, we will soon see demand for drivers increase rapidly,” American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said in a statement urging Obama to sign the bill. “Making it easier for veterans to move into these jobs is a good thing for the military, for the veterans themselves and for our industry.”

“If there is a way to help re­turning military personnel use their training as they transition into new roles, then we certainly want to make sure to remove any obstacles to moving forward in a trucking career,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said in a statement.

DOT also applauded the bill.

“We are very pleased that Congress has passed the Military Commercial Driver’s License Act of 2012, which will help our returning veterans transition to civilian life by connecting them to job opportunities in the trucking industry, which is currently facing a shortage of experienced drivers,” said DOT spokesman Justin Nisly.

Citing statistics from the Truckload Carriers Association, Bucshon estimated that there are currently 200,000 longhaul trucking jobs open in the United States and that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 300,000 more jobs to open by 2020.

In addition to this legislation, the federal government has taken other recent actions to encourage veterans to go into the trucking industry.

A May 2011 FMCSA regulation permits states to waive the driving skills portion of the CDL for some veterans and reservists who drove heavy vehicles in the military. As of August, 26 states had done so.

And a provision in the transportation funding law passed this summer directs the Department of Transportation to study the barriers that make it difficult for veterans to get truck driving jobs. END.