Student truck drivers can operate without co-driver in passenger seat under new FMCSA waiver

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a new waiver relaxing restrictions on student drivers during the Coronavirus crisis.

On March 28, FMCSA issued a waiver that directly addresses the difficulties that student drivers are experiencing due to the closures of state drivers licensing offices across the country for Coronavirus. Many state driver licensing offices have been closed to try to slow the spread of Coronavirus, while others are having major staffing issues due to the pandemic.

Per the new waiver, a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) holder will be able to operate a truck without a CDL holder in the passenger seat so long as certain circumstances are met. The waiver is valid through June 30, 2020, or until the COVID-19 national emergency declaration is revoked.

According to the waiver, “a CLP holder may operate a CMV on public roads or highways without an accompanying CDL holder present in the front seat of the vehicle, provided that the CDL holder is elsewhere in the cab, the CLP holder is in possession of evidence from the testing jurisdiction, including an authorized third- party tester, that the CLP holder has passed the CDL driving skills test, and, unless the FMCSA waiver issued on March 24, 2020 applies, that the CLP holder has a valid non- CDL driver’s license, CLP, and medical certificate.”

The waiver also allows CLP holders to take the driving skills test in any state, not just the state in which they received their driver training.

FMCSA says that the waiver is unlikely to have an impact on highway safety “due to the limited scope of this waiver and the ample precautions that remain in place.”

FMCSA says that the waiver will “prevent a possible shortage of CMV drivers from becoming a transportation emergency, and to continue the ability of intrastate and interstate CDL and CLP holders to transport goods in response to the COVID-19 emergency.”

You can click here to view the waiver.

On March 24, FMCSA issued a waiver that extended the relaxed several CDL and CLP requirements. Notably, the March 24 waiver extended the validity of CDL licenses that expired after March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, due to closed state drivers licensing agencies.