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FMCSA Extends COVID-19 CDL, Med Card Waiver

Because the COVID-19 pandemic means many state licensing offices are still closed or facing an extensive backlog, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is extending until May 31 its declaration allowing states to extend the validity of commercial licenses and permits that have expired since the pandemic started.

FMCSA’s Feb. 16 order:

  1. Permits (but does not require) states to extend the validity of CDLs due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020, beyond the eight-year maximum period of validity called for under federal regulations.
  2. Permits (but does not require) states to extend the validity of commercial learners’ permits due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020, beyond the one-year maximum set in federal regulations without requiring the CLP holders to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests.
  3. Permits (but does not require) states to allow CLP holders to take the CDL skills test without waiting 14 days after initial issuance of the CLP.
  4. Waives the requirement that CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers have a medical examination and certification, provided they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance issued for a period of 90 days or longer that expired on or after Dec. 1, 2020.

FMCSA first issued a similar waiver in response to the March 13, 2020, declaration of a national emergency related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The agency issued similar waivers extending the relief on March 24, June 15, Sept. 18, and Dec. 15, 2020. The latest was due to expire on Feb. 28.

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This waiver is effective March 1 and expires on May 31 or until the national emergency declaration is revoked, whichever is sooner.

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, many states are experiencing greater than normal employee absences, reduced hours of operation, or closed offices of their state driver licensing agencies. The pace of return to normal operations has varied across the country.

As a result, many CDL and CLP holders may be unable to renew their licenses or permits or provide medical certificates to their SDLA. In addition, due to limited operations or backlogs, drivers may be unable to obtain appointments for physical examinations with medical examiners to get their medical certifications renewed.

FMCSA notes that the relief actually granted by each state may vary. While some states have adopted the maximum eight-year renewal period, other states have adopted shorter periods, and waiving the 8-year limit would provide no relief to drivers with CDLs issued by those states.

The agency is issuing a separate Notice of Enforcement Policy stating that, through May 31, the agency will not take enforcement against drivers for operation of a CMV if the driver held a valid CDL on Feb. 29, 2020, or against motor carriers for use of such a driver. Most states have adopted the full one-year maximum period of CLP validity, but FMCSA is similarly including in its Enforcement Policy a comparable provision on non-enforcement of recently expired CLPs.

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