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The fast lane: Waive CDL requirements for veterans returning to civilian workforce as truck drivers?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 19th, 2013

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has authorized the states to grant commercial driver’s licenses to eligible veterans who choose to pursue careers in transport

veterans as truck drivers

This post ties in with my recent blog on the national truck driver shortage and new technology for those in trucking school.

One of the ways this gap has been addressed is by recruiting veterans who have served our country.  As we’ve pointed out before, veterans who were involved in logistics are often well qualified, because they have experience operating large transport vehicles.  Often, they operated these vehicles in less than ideal environments.

Well, get this…

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has made it easier for veterans with relevant experience to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).  At each individual state’s discretion, in order to obtain a CDL, veterans only have to pass the written portion of the test.  This measure has been adopted by 44 states.  The latest state to do so was Maryland.

Naturally, this begs the question: is it really a good idea to make it easier to get this kind of license?  After all, commercial vehicles are very dangerous.  Our Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable lawyers litigate cases across the country involving trucking companies that have chosen to ignore mandatory safety rules and truck drivers who lie on log books (lie books), or even worse, drive intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs.

Where can a compromise be reached that meets the needs of those who have served our country, while still protecting our own families on our roads from unqualified drivers behind the wheels of tractor-trailers?

The best answer might be that it remains to be seen.  There must be stringent qualifications that these veteran must meet before being eligible for the waiver.  Currently, in order to qualify, the applicant must:

  1. Have two years of driving experience immediately before their discharge from service;
  2. Have a clean driving record (including being free of license suspensions);
  3. Not have held more than one license (except a military DL) in the past two years;
  4. Have certification of the vehicle they operated;
  5. Have certification of the amount of time they operated that vehicle; and
  6. Of course, still pass the written portion of the CDL test.

Hiring veterans as truck drivers could be a positive initiative

The Roundtable lawyers believe this could prove to be a really great initiative, if safety comes first.

It does meet several needs.  First, it attracts qualified applicants to a profession where quality drivers are absolutely critical.  Commercial vehicles are extremely dangerous when they are misused, or when safety standards are not followed.  This waiver for veterans will attract experienced people who hopefully already know the ropes.

And the reality is this is still preferable  to hiring the truck drivers who have already grass-hopped from state to state, causing far too many preventable trucking crashes or receiving too many trucking violations.  This is still the most imminent danger of a shortage of qualified truck drivers – that companies dangerously lower standards and fill positions with clearly unfit truckers who have no business getting back behind the wheel.

Second, and just as important, this is a great way to give back to men and women who have given so much to this country.

Hopefully as this measure continues to be adopted among the United States, it will help make our roads safer by hopefully attracting well qualified people to operate commercial vehicles.  Hopefully, once these veterans are placed in these new jobs, they can receive additional safety training.

Commercial trucks are potentially deadly, and without question, they can be difficult to operate.  And driving a truck is a tough job.  But the men and women who have selflessly served this country are up to the task.

More information about this initiative can be found here: Military CDL Skills Test Waiver Forms

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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