FMCSA Grants Commercial Truck Drivers More Time to Renew Licenses
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the standards for reviewing and renewing commercial driver’s licenses throughout the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 3.5 million people rely on these licenses for their livelihoods as they perform the essential work of transporting goods used by hundreds of millions of Americans. Because of ongoing disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the FMCSA has once again granted waivers for the renewal of commercial driver’s licenses, commercial learner’s permits, and medical cards.
Extent of CDL and CLP Waivers
Effective October 1, 2020, the FMCSA has extended the original waivers granted earlier in the year. People with CDLs or CLPs that did not expire until on or after March 1, 2020, now have until December 31, 2020, to renew their licensing. The extension removes a previous requirement that CLP holders wait 14 days to take their CDL skills test if they get the opportunity to test prior to December 31, 2020.
As for medical exams and certifications, holders of CDLs and CLPs who previously held a valid medical certification that expired on or after March 1, 2020, but not after June 1, 2020, have until October 31, 2020, to renew their medical documentation. For those license holders whose medical certification did not expire until after June 1, 2020, they now have until December 31, 2020, to obtain a medical exam and renewed credentials.
FMCSA Regulatory Authority
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has the power to authorize waivers for regulations issued by the FMCSA under certain circumstances. If a waiver serves the public interest, then the secretary need not give prior notice to the public or open the decision to public comment. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century granted this power to the secretary as long as the waivers maintain a level of safety equivalent to existing standards.
The safety regulations imposed on CDL holders are meant to promote traffic safety. Violations of these regulations have long served as evidence in personal injury claims managed by trucking accident attorneys. The waivers do not necessarily reduce the obligations of CDL holders and transit companies but instead recognize the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic. The societal difficulties that have resulted from the infectious disease appear to meet the standards set by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which allows for three-month-long regulatory waivers related to specific and unique events.
The secretary had originally waived the requirements for a three-month period at the beginning of the pandemic. With conditions still causing delays for commercial drivers striving to renew their licenses, the secretary cited the unresolved pandemic problems to issue another round of three-month waivers.
Although many expired licenses remain valid at this point, the majority of regulations remain in effect. Transit companies and drivers still must comply with a host of rules, including:
- Drug and alcohol testing programs
- DOT clearinghouse requirements
- Hours-of-service limits
- Driver qualification files
- Accident reporting
Justification for CDL Waivers
With the public health emergency overtaking the entire country this year, state-level motor vehicle offices that normally process CDL and CLP applications, testing, and renewals had to close for long periods of time and alter operations. Many have switched to appointment-only services. The results have been a slowdown in work and a large backlog of CDL renewals.
Outbreaks of coronavirus throughout the nation also resulted in the temporary closure of many non-emergency medical offices during periods when stay-at-home orders were in effect. This prevents commercial drivers from making appointments to renew their health certifications related to their jobs as truckers. Even though most medical facilities have resumed operations, or at least limited operations, large numbers of drivers in need of exams have resulted in long waits for appointments.
In conjunction with the disruptions experienced by departments of motor vehicles, other state agencies, and medical providers, regulators realized the importance of keeping truckers on the job. Federal government officials did not view the expiration of credentials as a greater threat than a large-scale shortage of working truck drivers. Their work has been deemed essential so that goods can continue to reach markets and keep people connected with the supplies necessary for life and business.
Limitations of Waivers
Those commercial drivers whose licensing expired before March 1, 2020, cannot continue to drive without a renewal. People living in foreign countries who were issued CDLs by a U.S. state cannot operate under the terms of current waivers. Additionally, anyone who committed traffic offenses that resulted in the suspension or revocation of a CDL cannot benefit from the waiver. Brand-new CDL holders who have not yet been able to arrange for medical certification also do not qualify for the waiver.
The waivers carve out several exemptions regarding truck driver medical certification. People who continue to qualify as a commercial driver under the terms of the waiver must carry their expired medical certificate and documentation about medical variances if applicable. Failure to carry or provide the expired but otherwise valid medical certifications will be viewed as a regulatory violation.
Even those who would otherwise meet the terms of the waiver will cease to qualify should they be diagnosed with medical conditions considered troublesome to commercial driving. Commercial drivers facing that situation must complete and pass an FMCSA Skill Performance Evaluation to operate legally.
On occasion, physicians may issue short-term medical examiner’s certificates. Certificates that were originally granted for periods of less than 90 days are not included under the waiver.
FMCSA Continues to Require Accident Reporting
The new round of CDL renewal waivers has in no way altered accident reporting requirements. The FMCSA expects to be informed of accidents involving CDL and CLP holders within five business days of a crash.
The agency collects numerous data points about commercial vehicle crashes. Accident reports require the location of the accident, date, driver’s name and license number, vehicle number, and license plate number. Key details about how many people suffered injuries or were killed must be submitted as well. If the police have determined a cause for the accident or cited the commercial driver for any violations, then the report must include that information.
Legal Guidance in the Aftermath of a Truck Accident
The same information gathered by the FMCSA may also contribute to your accident claim should you seek compensation from a responsible party for your truck accident injuries. A trucking accident attorney might check with the agency to see if it received an official report about your collision. Attorneys can conduct a truck accident investigation independent of the trucking company to aid your case as well. You may want to find out if the commercial driver involved in your accident was currently compliant with licensing requirements. Current FMCSA waivers may complicate that picture, but a review by an attorney could confirm whether or not a driver was operating legally.
The licensing status of a truck driver represents only one element in a personal injury case. Legal support from a truck accident lawyer can inform you about available insurance coverage and the types of damages potentially recoverable under the law. RAM Law assists people like you who need advice after being hurt in a truck accident. We are located in New Brunswick and Somerville, New Jersey. Contact a trucking accident attorney today via our contact form or by calling us at (732) 394-1549.