OOIDA tells FMCSA to deny Stevens Transport’s exemption request

July 18, 2022

Mark Schremmer


The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is encouraging the FMCSA to deny the latest exemption regarding commercial learner’s permit drivers.

In June, Dallas-based Stevens Transport asked the agency for an exemption that would allow some of its permit holders to run team with a CDL holder.

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 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 has already granted similar exemptions to such carriers as Werner Enterprises, CR England and CRST.

However, OOIDA argues that the exemption goes against FMCSA’s mission.

“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. “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.”

Stevens Transport’s exemption request published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, June 14.

The company said 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.

The comment period ended July 14. LL