FMCSA asked for another student driver exemption

May 22, 2024

Mark Schremmer


Editor’s note: On May 29, FMCSA updated the number of Covenant Logistics drivers who would operate under the exemption to 4,000 annually. Previously, FMCSA said it would be 2,000 drivers.

A pair of carriers operating together are asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for another exemption from the requirement that a CDL holder must be in the passenger seat while a commercial learner’s permit holder is driving.

In a notice that is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, May 23, Covenant Transport and Landair Transport – who are working jointly as Covenant Logistics – requested an exemption that FMCSA has granted to several carriers in recent years.

Current regulations require a CDL holder with the proper class and endorsements to be seated in the front while a commercial learner’s permit holder is driving on public roads or highways. The exemption would allow Covenant Logistics student drivers who passed the skills test but have not yet received the CDL document to drive a commercial motor vehicle accompanied by a CDL holder “who is not necessarily in the passenger seat.”

In its application to FMCSA, Covenant Logistics said that the regulation causes it to not employ a new driver until the home state issues a CDL. This process can take weeks, the joint carrier said.

“This administrative waiting period has caused a significant burden on Covenant Logistics’ operations,” according to the notice.

Covenant Logistics estimates that 4,000 drivers would operate under the exemption each year. It requested a two-year exemption.

Similar exemptions

FMCSA recently renewed a similar exemption to CRST. Stevens Transport, New Prime, CR England, Werner Enterprises and Wilson Logistics also are operating under exemptions that no longer require the trainer to be in the passenger seat.

In the renewal notice for CRST, the agency said that it was unaware of any evidence that the exemption has negatively affected safety.

However, the Truck Safety Coalition contends that FMCSA should not be easing regulations, as the number of fatality crashes has increased in recent years.

“There has never been a more important time to have high and uncompromising standards,” the Truck Safety Coalition wrote in response to CRST’s request.

How to comment

Once the notice is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 30 days to comment. To do so, go to and enter Docket No. FMCSA-2024-0063. LL