FMCSA rejects Alaska school’s exemption request

September 11, 2023

Mark Schremmer


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied an exemption request from an Alaska training school, saying it would have resulted in drivers receiving a CDL without demonstrating the necessary skills.

In April, FMCSA published a request from Alaska’s Ice Road Driving School to exempt it from portions of the entry-level driver training requirements. The school said the “unique road system” and “challenging terrain” in Alaska made it difficult to conduct all aspects of the road skills test.

Specifically, the school asked for exemptions from requirements that driver trainees demonstrate proficiency in behind-the-wheel maneuvers related to entering the on ramp, exiting the off ramp, right turns and left turns.

FMCSA rejected the exemption request in a notice that is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

“Granting the exemption would result in drivers receiving a CDL even though they had not demonstrated proficiency in the three driving skills from which exemption is requested,” FMCSA wrote.

Limited exemption in Alaska

In December, FMCSA granted an exemption that is limited to 14 defined geographical areas in Alaska that lack infrastructure to allow 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. The exemption was granted for two years.

FMCSA limited the exemption to those areas to avoid trainees receiving a CDL in Alaska and then using the license in other areas without demonstrating those skills.

“If FMCSA were to grant the relief requested, the affected drivers would be eligible to obtain an unrestricted CDL and operate in any location in the U.S., even though they did not receive the requisite training to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle,” the agency wrote. “The exemption applies only to CDL applicants who reside in one of the named remote geographical areas … and who operate only within those defined areas.

FMCSA noted that Alaska’s Ice Road Driving School qualifies for the exemption in those areas.

“The agency does not believe it is appropriate to grant a statewide exemption when the previous exemption provides a targeted solution in 14 specific regions of the state where there are challenges to achieving full compliance with the rules,” FMCSA wrote. LL