(The Center Square) – Economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could be stalled if potential truck drivers are unable to get their commercial driver’s licenses in states where department of motor vehicle locations are shut down or severely restricted, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) said.
Virginia and 26 other states have closed down their DMVs, which prevents prospective commercial vehicle drivers from obtaining a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) or a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Virginia still allows third-party testers to provide road-skill tests for a person to attain a CDL if he or she already has a CLP, and the state has asked the federal government for a waiver to allow third-party-knowledge testing so a person can get a CLP. This waiver has not yet been granted.
Twenty-three states have kept their DMVs or equivalent departments open, although generally with limited capacity. Many drivers with CLPs will be allowed to take CDL tests in out-of-state DMVs after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) got rid of the federal requirement that a person has driver training in the state he or she is getting the license. This waiver does not apply to CLP tests.
CVTA, which represents truck driving schools, has urged states to classify trainings and other actions necessary for essential jobs, such as commercial vehicle drivers, as being essential activities out of concern there will not be enough people ready with these skills when the economic recovery is taking place.
“Commercial driver training schools are working together with participants across the supply chain to facilitate Americans’ access to needed goods and services, including food and critical supplies (like prescription medications) during this pandemic,” CVTA President and CEO Don Lefeve said in a news release. “To avoid truck-driver shortages, which are critical to our nation’s response and recovery, it is imperative that state and federal governments work together so CDL schools and [State Driver Licensing Agencies] can remain open to train, test and license new commercial drivers.”
Lefeve told The Center Square in a phone interview that during the COVID-19 recovery, there likely will be a demand for truck drivers to move shipments across the country. With a shortage of drivers already existing, heightened demand and a greater shortage, he warned, would slow down the recovery.
Depending on how long states stay shut down or if drivers start getting sick, Lefeve said there also could be a shortage affecting relief efforts before the economy even gets to the point of recovering.
As a last resort, Lefeve suggested the U.S. secretary of transportation should consider taking the authority to issue CDLs and CLPs. If nothing is done, he warned tens of thousands of drivers nationwide could be prevented from getting necessary training to get a CDL.
Jessica Cowardin, a spokeswoman for the Virginia DMV, told The Center Square the state has followed all FMCSA recommendations on deregulation for commercial vehicle drivers, including extending deadlines and reducing requirements for drivers helping with COVID-19 relief efforts.
The Virginia DMV also is processing applicants by mail if they have met the requirements.
“We understand the vital role that CDL holders have during this emergency and continue to work closely with our federal partners to ensure that applicants obtain the necessary classifications and endorsements on their CDL,” Cowardin said. “DMV is aggressively exploring safe and efficient ways to expedite the testing process before and after the DMV customer service center reopen.”