FMCSA renews mega carrier’s exemption to let student drivers behind the wheel without trainer

The FMCSA has extended a waiver that will allow C.R. England student drivers who have passed their CDL skills test, but have not yet received their CDLs, to drive as as a team.

Normally, a trainer is required to be present in the front seat when a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holder is behind the wheel. The exemption allows the trainer to leave the front seat and rest in the truck’s sleeper berth while the CLP holder is behind the wheel.

This allows C.R. England to use a non-licensed student driver as a fully functioning, revenue-producing driver.

The original exemption was issued back in June 2015, but the agency recently renewed the exemption, making it effective until until June 12, 2022.

The agency received several comments from those who opposed the renewal during the public commenting period:

“CR Englands motivations are for profit, and recruitment. The FMCSA’s motivation is safety. I don’t think we should entertain the idea of reducing safety issues for the sake of profit. Besides, CR Englands’ so called “driver trainers” are no more qualified to train than any other driver with only 3 months of driving under their belts, and CR England wants to allow these “trainers” to go into the sleeper birth while a trainee is behind the wheel? That’s just stupid! As an OTR driver with over 6 years of class 8 driving behind me, I find CR England offensive in their cookie cutter recruitment practices, driver trainee promo deals, and poor hands-on training programs. The FMCSA is already letting them get away with MURDER, now they are considering an exemption to further remove what little guidance a trainer with only 3 to 6 months experience can provide? If FMCSA issues this exemption…? are they going to take responsibility for all the deaths that will occur because of this? Because that blood will be on their hands!” wrote commenter Charles Loschert.

“This is not a proper way to train a driver. This exemption is incredibly dangerous to everyone on the road. The industry is already feeling the effects of under trained and unqualified drivers, allowing CR England to perpetuate this issue is a huge step backwards in safety and driver training. Also the licensed driver of the truck will likely be forced to take on an unlicensed driver thus forcing him or her to put their life in danger or face punishment from the company. With all the push for cmv safety these days how is this type of exemption even up for debate…..” wrote commenter James Kean.

Despite the opposition, the FMCSA approved the renewal, stating that “the exemption does not negatively affect safety outcomes.”

“Instead, it allows drivers trained out-of-state to obtain on-the-job experience in C.R. England’s comprehensive training program while avoiding significant delays and skill degradation. The exemption creates immediate economic and safety benefits for both the CLP holders and C.R. England—the driver earns an income as part of a team operation while improving driver skills and gaining valuable experience,” the FMCSA docket reads.

Other major trucking carriers, such as Prime Inc. and CRST, have received similar exemptions. C.R. England, however, is the first carrier to have their exemption renewed.