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Military Skills Test Waiver for Big-Rig Truck Drivers Needs Modification Expert Says

| November 5, 2018
truck driver training

Is the military skills test waiver for big-rig truck drivers a panacea or a problem? John Kearney, CEO and President of Advanced Training Systems (ATS)John  sees it as a good solution, but in need of a little tweaking.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a military skills test waiver for veterans with appropriate service experience is now being offered in all 50 states.

The waiver, a provision of FMSCA’s Learner’s Permit rules, allows veterans to substitute two years of safely operating military trucks or buses for the skills test portion of the commercial drivers license test. John Kearney, CEO and President of Advanced Training Systems, says, “We totally understand the need to provide employment opportunities for returning veterans, as well as to help alleviate the nation’s current—and severe—shortage of long-haul truck drivers.”

Kearney, whose company is a leading designer and manufacturer of virtual simulators and training for student and experienced driver training, among other applications, adds, “At the same time, as experts in the driver training field, we understand peoples’ concerns about safety. What we need is a solution that addresses both issues.”

There is no question, Kearney notes, about the seriousness of the national driver shortage. There are some 50,000 fewer truckers than are needed right now, and the U.S. trucking industry will need to hire almost 900,000 new operators over the next decade simply to maintain the current workforce.2 As a partial response to this situation, legislation was introduced earlier this year to reduce the legal age for interstate cargo transport from 21 to 18—an age range that would include many of the veterans covered by the FMSCA’s test-waiver proposal.3

The legislation has generated a certain amount of opposition. Myron Shevell, Chairman of the Shevell Group, which operates New England Motor Freight and Eastern Freightways, characterized it as “a horrible idea. With the situation with auto accidents, you are just adding to the problem. Anything can happen.” Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, called the legislation “absurd.”4

Others in the industry, however, are more receptive to the idea. In a poll of ten supply chain and transportation executives, a leading industry trade publication received seven unqualified yes votes for lowering the minimum driver age, two responses supporting both sides of the question, and one apparent no.5

As to the driving test waiver for returning veterans, Kearney notes that the application requirements are designed to screen out unsuitable candidates: a minimum of two years of military driving experience and a clean and stable civilian driving record: no suspended, revoked, or cancelled licenses, no citations for the use of alcohol or drugs, and no serious traffic violations.

“There’s no question that our nation’s roadways are crowded and potentially dangerous,” says Kearney.

“The best approach to licensing qualified veterans would be to allow them to partly bypass costly conventional training programs but require a short simulator course to assure they are fully prepared and U.S. highway-ready. Just as in military and airline pilot training, the use of a simulator can teach the proper response to events too rare or too dangerous to be part of behind-the-wheel instruction—in the case of a truck driver, a blowout of the steering tire, a patch of black ice, sudden high wind, or a similar serious and unexpected problem.”

Category: Driver Stuff, General Update, News

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