By John Kearney

Days after a coalition of 77 commercial driver’s license (CDL) schools, along with dozens of trucking companies, shippers, and trade groups, called for legislation giving the federal government authority to administer CDL testing, a waiver has been granted. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has passed a waiver to allow third-party CDL test examiners to administer tests without first completing a CDL knowledge training course.

This is good news in light of the closure of DMV testing sights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I for one have expressed my concern that when restrictions are lifted, the shortage of truck drivers across the U.S. will be far worse than anticipated. When DMV locations across the U.S. closed for safety and quarantine, it left many future drivers unable to obtain commercial learner’s permits and licenses and abruptly halted the process of getting 25,000-40,000 new drivers trained, licensed and on the road. The impact on industries and the nation’s supply chain has been huge and the trucking industry is accountable for moving 71% of all freight across the country.

As I see it, the good news that has come out of the disruption caused by the pandemic is that the DOT and the FMCSA have reaffirmed their commitment to provide quality and professionalism in the nation’s CDL training schools. The entire nation has felt the pinch of delays in shipments reaching retailers and praised the efforts of the truck operators in stepping up to meet the challenge. They risked infection, drove in conditions difficult to imagine, and sacrificed time with families to ensure that the supply chain kept pushing through. The examples they set have been noticed by the next generation of drivers waiting to study, test and climb into the cab themselves.

The national stage has shown that operating a long-haul rig is more than a job – it’s a profession. And this profession deserves comprehensive training combining textbook, ATS driving simulators with virtual reality, and over-the-road skills tests. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. high school graduates begin their working careers right away and never go to college. It’s incumbent upon the trucking industry to meet that opportunity and provide vocational education programs in high school and community colleges nationwide.

I’m proud that ATS continues to recommend and support initiatives that will continue to professionally train and test the next generation of truck drivers, whose importance has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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