New Rule Allows States to Issue One-Year Commercial Learner’s Permits

December 21, 2018

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published a new rule to allow State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) to issue a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) for one year, up from the current 180 days.

Under current rules, a CLP can be valid for no more than 180 days from the date of issuance, and the state may renew it for an additional 180 days without requiring the CLP holder to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests. A CLP allows its holder to do behind-the-wheel training on public roads and highways, provided the holder is accompanied by someone with a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL), has a valid driver’s license issued by the same jurisdiction, has passed the requisite knowledge tests, and is at least 18 years old.

The announced change means that CLP holders will no longer need to apply for a renewal in states that choose to offer one-year CLPs, so long as they do not need to retake any of the tests during that year. If the applicant does not obtain a CDL by the end of the one-year period, they must reapply for a CLP by re-taking the applicable knowledge test(s).

In September 2015, the Oregon Department of Transportation (DOT) applied for an exemption from existing CLP requirements so it could issue CLPs for one year (with no 180-day renewal period). At the time, it had cited administrative efficiency and said it did not believe the exemption would lessen safety. FMCSA granted that exemption in April 2016 and permitted all SDLAs to extend the 180-day timeline to one year.

To codify that exemption, the agency released a notice of public rulemaking (NPRM) in June 2017. As a result of concerns from the Georgia SDLA and two industry associations (the Commercial Vehicle Training Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association), FMCSA clarified in the final rule that the change only gives SDLAs the option to issue one-year CLPs if they want to—but no SDLA is required to do so.

The new rule is effective Feb. 19, 2019.

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