The Jobs for Our Heroes Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), passed the Senate yesterday. The legislation, which streamlines the process by which active-duty military, reservists and veterans apply for Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs), is 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).
“Our servicemembers already face obstacles when looking to enter the civilian workforce, and it’s important we make it easier to apply their unique training and skills to employment in certain fields,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would help streamline application requirements that are similar to those they already passed during their time in the military. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to move this legislation forward.”
“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. “By removing legal obstacles delaying servicemembers from getting commercial drivers’ licenses, this bipartisan bill will help veterans looking for good jobs and will help employers looking for talented employees. I’m glad the Senate passed this bill and hope the House will take it up soon.”
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.