Motor carriers and professional truck drivers alike know the multiple steps a prospective trucker must take to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and then qualify for a job.

There’s training and skill tests, licensing hurdles, physical exams, drug testing, various endorsements, and background checks for hazardous materials or obtaining a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or “TWIC card,” to access ports. Meanwhile, the REAL ID deadline looms next year, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations recently took effect for entry-level truck drivers.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, FMCSA issued and extended waivers to ease the challenges that student drivers, truck driver trainers and state driver licensing agencies faced during periods of office closures, physical distancing and personnel shortages.

Now, lawmakers have introduced two pieces of federal legislation making permanent some of the regulatory relief provided by those pandemic waivers and streamlining the truck driver credentialing process.

The LICENSE Act (“Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safely and Efficiently Act”) is sponsored by Reps. LaHood (R-IL), Balderson (R-OH), Harder (D-CA) and Cuellar (D-TX) in the House and by Sens. Lummis (R-WY) and Kelly (D-AZ) in the Senate. The proposed legislation (H.R. 6567 in the House; S. 3556 in the Senate) would make three changes to current regulations:

  • Third-party CDL test examiners would be allowed to also administer the CDL knowledge test;
  • States would be permitted to give driving skills tests to non-residents, no matter where the student drivers received their training; and
  • Commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders who have passed the CDL skills test, but not yet received their physical credentials, would be allowed to drive with a CDL holder anywhere in the truck, not only in the front seat.

In the House, Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA) and John Katko (R-NY) introduced the “Transportation Security Administration Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act” (H.R. 6571). This bill would allow one valid TSA background check to qualify truck drivers for any TSA program, such as the TWIC, the hazardous materials CDL endorsement, and the TSA PreCheck at airports.

While a closely-divided Congress in a mid-term election year might be slow to pass new legislation, here members in both chambers from both sides of the aisle argue that common sense adjustments are needed when the nation’s supply chain requires more truck drivers.