Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced that Congress passed a bill he cosponsored to improve and expedite the commercial driver's license (CDL) application process for Armed Forces members and veterans. The Senate passed the bill on September 22 and the House passed it on September 28.
"This is great news, and we will finally be able to help members of our military put their training to good use after their service ends," said Rockefeller. "If they have received driving training in the military, certainly they are ready to drive here in the U.S. as commercial drivers. At the same time, our trucking industry is seeking more drivers to satisfy increasing demands so this bill should help create new jobs in West Virginia. In fact, I held a Commerce Committee hearing in West Virginia earlier this year which highlighted the need for drivers in the state particularly with the growth in the natural gas industry."
Additionally, today the West Virginia National Guard, the state Department of Education and Department of Transportation announced its National Guard Commercial Driver's License Pilot which is designed to help military personnel with experience driving large trucks and other equipment get their commercial drivers' licenses in a more cost-effective manner and more quickly. The program will also help address a growing truck driver shortage in West Virginia.
Rockefeller added, "It's also great to see that West Virginia is getting out ahead by starting its own pilot program to help members of the military from West Virginia, particularly members of our National Guard, qualify more easily for commercial drivers' licenses in the state. West Virginia's National Guard members are some of the best in the country, and this program will help them get good jobs when they finish their service, which they are already trained to do, while helping to fill a shortage of drivers in the state. This pilot program and the new legislation are win-wins for our men and women in uniform and the American economy."
The bill eliminates a current-law hurdle that only allows veterans to obtain a license in their home state of record. Since many military personnel retain home states of record that differ from where they are actually stationed, it can be difficult for them to apply training received at their military installation to receiving a CDL they can use to obtain a civilian job following their service -- a problem alleviated by this bill.
Additionally, current and former members of the military who have experience driving heavy trucks during their service face unneeded delays in obtaining CDLs, which is a requirement for driving commercial motor vehicles in the civilian workforce. And, the trucking industry continues to be plagued by driver shortages, so expediting entry of safe, experienced drivers into the workforce is much needed.
Under the new provision, the Department of Transportation Secretary would be required to review the issue and come up with a plan for implementing an easier CDL process for veterans.