U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today released the following statements after bipartisan legislation, the Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017, passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The legislation, which streamlines the process by which active-duty military, reservists and veterans apply for Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs), was cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).
“Many servicemen and women have been uniquely trained to drive large military vehicles and want to carry over that expertise into their civilian careers,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation makes it easier for veterans to utilize their military training to obtain a commercial drivers license, and I’m glad the Senate Commerce Committee has moved forward on this commonsense bill.”
“Veterans who have the training and experience to operate heavy trucks and buses under tough conditions in the military have the skills needed to drive trucks on our highways,” Sen. Warren said. “This bipartisan bill will remove legal obstacles delaying service members from getting commercial drivers’ licenses. I’m glad the Committee approved the bill, and hope Congress passes it soon – this is a straightforward fix that will benefit veterans looking for good jobs and that will help employers looking for talented employees.”
The latest surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, directed the Secretary of Transportation to establish a unique, streamlined set of standards for veterans applying for a CDL. The standards exempt veterans from all or a portion of civilian commercial vehicle driving tests if that veteran had experience driving similar vehicles while in the armed forces or reserves. Additionally, the standards allow veterans’ formal military training to count as credit towards the commercial motor vehicles minimum requirements to obtain a license.
However, the FAST Act did not include active-duty members of the military and reservists in their application of standards for veterans with previous training in military driving. To correct this, the Department of Transportation (USDOT) granted a two-year exemption allowing states to waive the commercial driver’s licenses knowledge test for current service members, reservists, and national guardsmen if they completed military heavy-training programs and had been regularly employed in a military position requiring the operation of heavy vehicles within the past year prior to their application.
The Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017 makes the USDOT’s two-year exemption permanent, providing active-duty service members and reservists the same training and testing standards granted to veterans under the FAST Act.
The Senators’ legislation also makes it easier for veterans to receive the DOT-required health examination to hold a commercial driver’s license. The FAST Act contained a provision requiring USDOT and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to collaborate and develop a streamlined and efficient process whereby VA physicians can join the National Registry for Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). USDOT requires that all CDL holders be examined by physicians certified by the NRCME. Currently, there is an extremely low number of physicians in the VA health system certified by the NRCME, forcing veterans to either travel exorbitant distances to see a CME or pay out of pocket for a non-VA medical professional. The Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017 Act allows all qualified VA medical professionals, including advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, to use the same new process afforded to VA physicians.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.