The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced that it will allow a major trucking company to use unsupervised drivers who have completed their training for a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) but who have yet to pass their driver’s test in the state that grants their license.
The trucking company requested the exemption with economic arguments. They lose revenue if the driver needs to have a second driver supervising them at all times and if they cannot work for the carrier prior to receiving their CDL, they could decide to find employment elsewhere.
The problem with these arguments is they overlook the central purpose of the FMCSA, that being safety. These drivers are obviously new. They have little or no experience driving an 80,000-pound semi-truck at highway speeds. They haven’t even passed the test for their license, and now they will be given control of a massive truck on busy and congested highways like I-40 and I-65 in Tennessee.
The exemption will allow them to operate the vehicle as long as there is a CDL driver in the truck, but they will not have to be closely supervising the driver. How they will provide assistance and guidance to an inexperienced truck driver when they are dozing in the sleeper of the cab is a good question.
In addition, the carrier that received the exemption already has a worse-than-average safety record, with more than twice the number of crashes of other large carriers of similar size.
While the FMCSA exemption can be reversed if crash rates go even higher for the carrier, this will mean that someone else is paying a high cost for that exemption. A deteriorating safety record will be evidence of unnecessary crashes and innocent motorists who may have been injured or killed, in order for the trucking company to attempt to save a few dollars.