FMCSA eases rules to upgrade from class B to class A CDL
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has updated the process and reduced the price to upgrade from a class B to a class A Commercial Driver's License, a change which the agency estimates could save carriers and individuals $18 million a year.
- The FMCSA said it doesn't make sense for those upgrading their license to go through the same requirements as those getting a commercial license for the first time since they have experience in the industry, according to an agency press release.
- The change is specific to the theory curriculum requirements for drivers upgrading their licenses. Theory covers topics like regulations and how to perform an inspection.
The FMCSA estimates the rule change will affect 11,340 drivers by saving them an average of 27 hours that would have been spent on theory curriculum.
"Today’s action demonstrates the Department’s commitment to reducing regulatory burdens and addressing our nation’s shortage of commercial drivers," U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement Wednesday. In 2017, the American Trucking Associations estimated the field was short 50,000 drivers.
Drivers with class B or class A CDLs can haul trailers, but class B drivers are limited to anything below 10,000 pounds whereas class A drivers can transport heavier loads along with double and triple trailers, livestock carriers and other vehicles. So while FMCSA's rule change might not directly add more drivers to the road, it will increase the number of jobs they can handle and make it easier for drivers to obtain a class A.
This isn't the only regulatory change being made in an attempt to ease the driver shortage.
A new law in Colorado would make it possible for people as young as 18 to drive commercial vehicles across state lines. The catch is it requires the federal government to change its law, which prohibits 18-21-year-olds from driving Class 8 trucks across state lines.
Legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate called the DRIVE-Safe Act that would lower the age requirement for interstate commerce to 18 at the federal level. So far no actions have been taken on the legislation. It was also introduced in the last Congress but was never voted on.
The industry remains hopeful the legislation will be successful, according to ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.
"Given the broad coalition of interests backing this measure, there is growing understanding across the country that the impact of this issue reaches far beyond just trucking and commercial vehicles," Spear said in a statement about the DRIVE-Safe Act last month. "It is a strain on the entire supply chain, from the manufacturers and producers on down to retail and the end consumer, who will see higher prices at the store.”
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