A few years ago, I wrote an article outlining recent changes to the state’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and how those changes would impact farmers, small businesses and local commerce. While there are no impending major changes at the state level for farm CDLs, recent legislation and new federal requirements have brought (and are bringing) about changes that you may need to be aware of.
This session, the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 6423 which clarifies the current exemption farm vehicles receive from CDL requirements. The definition of farm vehicle is updated to include farm vehicles used to transport agricultural products (fertilizer, etc.), farm machinery or farm supplies to and from the farm.
Most of the other recent and upcoming CDL changes have to do with new federal requirements or bringing state law into compliance with federal law:
Federal law now requires every CDL holder to declare the type of commerce in which they tend to operate (interstate or intrastate). This is determined not by where the truck travels, but by where the commodity is intended. If you have a delivery to or from a port, you’re an interstate trucker.
Drivers will then be put into one of four categories: non-excepted interstate; non-excepted intrastate; excepted interstate; and, excepted intrastate.
New federal regulations require non-excepted interstate drivers to present a medical certification card to the Department of Licensing (DOL) with certain information about the driver and the doctor who administered the physical. The information will then be entered into a data base. Once the date base is created, the medical information will be linked to the driver and the medical card will not have to be carried.
Minimum Training Requirements
In 2007, the state Legislature passed a law that required any Washington resident applying for a CDL – regardless of where they operate – to achieve minimum training requirements depending on the class of CDL requested. This requirement is exempted if an employer certifies that the driver has had the training.
Learner’s Permit Rule
Often referred to as a “catch-all” rule, this rule change is scheduled to be implemented by July 2014 and will impact several areas of a CDL learner’s permit. Here are a few examples:
· Any person with a learner’s permit must comply with all CDL regulations;
· DOL is required to conduct a national background check on all CDL testers;
· The learner’s permit becomes a separate document instead of an endorsement;
· To receive specific endorsements (i.e. bus, tanker certified) the holder must pass a knowledge test;
· The learner’s permit hold will not be allowed to operate with people on board;
· The skill test will be performed in English only, but a the written test can be taken with the help of an interpreter;
Because texting while driving has become such a serious problem, new legislation will be proposed next session to make texting while driving a serious traffic offense and part of a commercial driver’s record.
Legislation passed within the last few years made changes to deferred prosecution for alcohol or drug-related offenses. Even if you have a deferred prosecution for your personal license, it will count as a conviction on your commercial driver’s license.
What does that mean? If you get a DUI (for drugs or alcohol) while driving your personal car and successfully defer prosecution, your CDL will still be suspended.
As a small business owner and farmer, I know how frustrating it can be to try to keep track of the continuing changes in federal, state and local rule and regulation changes. I personally believe that employers should have to spend less time doing paperwork so they can spend more time using their creative and entrepreneurial energies to help spur economic growth.
However, as I wrote in my previous article on this issue, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you have further questions or want to explore this issue more, you can contact my office at 360-786-7844, or e-mail me at Schmick.Joe@leg.wa.gov. You can also visit the Washington State Department of Transportation commercial vehicle page at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/CommercialVehicle/default.htm
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(Rep. Joe Schmick represents the 9th Legislative District. He is a second-generation farmer and small-business owner. Joe lives in Colfax with his wife, Kim.)