Driver training exemption sought by Alaska school

April 20, 2023

Mark Schremmer


Citing the “challenging terrain,” Alaska’s Ice Road Driving School is asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an exemption from the skills road test portion of its entry-level driver training regulations.

Specifically, the Alaska school wants an exemption from 49 CFR part 380 A and B that requires CDL holders to demonstrate proficiency in behind-the-wheel maneuvers related to entering the on-ramp, exiting the off-ramp, right turns and left turns.

As part of its application, the driving school says Alaska’s unique road configurations lead “to only a few major established safe road systems.” The school argues the regulation could be waived safely and “allow the school and the state of Alaska to prescribe routes based upon the area in which the road skills exam would be administered.

If approved, the exemption would cover all state and local commercial driving schools in Alaska, as well as individuals qualified as third-party testers in Alaska.

The public will have 30 days to comment on the exemption request.

Previous request

This isn’t the first time Alaska has sought relief from aspects of the entry-level driver training rule.

Last year, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy sought an exemption from the requirement that CDL applicants demonstrate proficiency in proper techniques for initiating vehicle movement, executing left and right turns, changing lanes, navigating curves at speed, entry and exit on interstate or controlled-access highway, and stopping the vehicle in a controlled manner.

Dunleavy wrote that the regulation requires students to demonstrate proficiency at skills that are not necessary, nor able to be demonstrated, in remote Alaska communities.

In December, FMCSA granted the exemption. However, the exemption is limited to drivers in 14 defined geographical areas that lack the infrastructure needed for the completion of the full skills test.

The 14 areas are Bethel, Prince of Wales Island, Haines, Ketchikan, King Salmon, Kodiak Island, Kotzebue, Nome, Mitkof Island, Sitka, Skagway, Unalaska Island, Utqiavik and Wrangell Island. LL