FMCSA grants Steven Transport’s exemption for permit holders

December 27, 2022

Mark Schremmer


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted another carrier’s request to allow some of its permit holders to run team with a CDL holder.

In a notice that is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, Dec. 28, FMCSA announced its decision to grant Dallas-based Stevens Transport’s exemption request regarding commercial learner’s permit drivers.

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 will allow student drivers who passed the skills test but have not yet received the CDL document to drive a Stevens Transport commercial motor vehicle accompanied by a CDL holder “who is not necessarily in the passenger seat.”

FMCSA previously granted similar exemptions to such carriers as Werner Enterprises, New Prime, C.R. England, Wilson Logistics and CRST.

Stevens Transport made its exemption request in June, saying it was needed because the current regulations create an inefficient supply chain.

According to the notice, Stevens is unable to employ new drivers until their home states issue a CDL and must choose either to wait for the driver to obtain a CDL from their home state before starting on-duty freight operations or send the driver home in an “unproductive nondriving capacity.” Stevens said it leads to a “lost employment opportunity” for the driver.

“In addition, as states may take weeks to properly document and update the status of a new driver’s license after passing the CDL skills test, Stevens is again not able to employ the driver without requiring a second driver in the front seat of the commercial motor vehicle,” the notice stated.

OOIDA opposed

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed comments in opposition of the exemption request.

“The regulations requiring an experienced driver in the front seat with a permit holder were implemented with safety in mind,” OOIDA wrote in formal comments filed in July. “FMCSA must continue bolstering training requirements in support of the entry-level driver training rule to improve highway safety. Granting this exemption would have the opposite effect. Because Stevens has not demonstrated that this exemption would achieve a level of safety equivalent or greater than the safety level under the current regulations, a waiver should not be granted.”

FMCSA explanation

The agency argued that the permit holders have already demonstrated their ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

“(Commercial learner’s permit) holders who have passed the CDL skills test are eligible to obtain a CDL without further training,” FMCSA wrote in the notice. “If these (commercial learner’s permit) holders had obtained their training and commercial learner’s permits in their state of domicile, they could immediately obtain their CDL at the state driver licensing agency and begin driving a commercial motor vehicle without any on-board supervision.”

FMCSA also noted that it has granted this exemption to several other carriers.

The exemption is scheduled to last five years. LL