House committee passes 2 bills to assist military personnel seeking CDLs
- Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved two bills — HR 2547 and HR 2258 — intended to expedite the certification process of military personnel seeking commercial driver's licenses (CDLs), as reported by Fleet Owner.
- HR 2547 ensures more medical professionals, including nurse practitioners, are eligible to conduct required medical exams for truck drivers at facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This expands existing language in the 2015 FAST Act, which originally only allowed certified physicians in the VA to conduct the exams.
- HR 2258 ensures active members of the military and reserves, as well as military veterans, all have the opportunity to receive a waiver from certain testing steps when seeking a CDL. Language from the 2015 FAST Act only considered veterans to be eligible for the waiver.
The government has put in a lot of work to increase veterans' opportunities to enter the trucking industry. In late 2016 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a final rule that extended the time period for military personnel to apply for a skills test waiver from 90 days post-military leave to one year. While this made CDLs more accessible to veterans, the 2015 FAST Act's original language built an unintended barrier that still kept some military personnel from pursuing a CDL. With these new bills, this barrier is broken and positions can be filled more quickly — which may greatly help the waste and recycling industry.
A national truck driver shortage has thrown the industry into a crisis in recent years as haulers scramble to fill open positions that require applicants with CDLs. According to The American Trucking Association (ATA), the shortage has more than doubled since 2011 and positions are expected to remain vacant unless more demographics — such as military personnel and women — are targeted. Many companies have worked with organizations such as Hiring Our Heroes to help attract military personnel to the industry through recruitment fairs or campaigns, and now it is hopeful that the process will be even more expedited.
Casella Waste Systems, Waste Management, Covanta and others have recruited veteran employees for many positions outside of the truck, as well. As of late 2016, 7% of Waste Management's workforce was made up of veterans (about 3,000 employees). Casella's employee base is made up of about 5% veterans. In a 2016 interview, Casella Vice President Joe Fusco told Waste Dive that working with veteran employees is beneficial because their "work ethic is second to none and they are fairly typically good leaders," which is an encouraging message to other employers who may be seeking more veteran drivers and employees in the near future.
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