Lawmakers have again eased rules regarding troops seeking commercial driver’s licenses, part of an ongoing effort to help veterans use their military skills for post-service jobs
On Dec. 21, in pre-recess work, House lawmakers easily passed the Jobs for Our Heroes Act, which clarifies eligibility rules for active-duty service members and reservists applying for the licenses under Department of Transportation programs. The measure now heads to the White House to be signed into law.
Previously, lawmakers had created a special program for veterans seeking commercial driver’s licenses, which allowed them to skip driving tests and some certification requirements if they had previous applicable experience from their time in the ranks.
But those provisions — outlined in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act in 2015 — did not include reservists who have not yet separated from the military or active-duty troops planning ahead for their post-service careers. Transportation officials created a two-year exemption to cover those groups, but the new legislation makes those changes permanent.
In addition, the measure also allows more Veterans Affairs medical professionals to perform required federal health examinations for the licensing processes. Because of current rules, only a small number of VA staffers meet the requirements for administering those tests.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and one of the sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement after the vote that the new bill fills an important gap for military members and the industry.
“There is a shortage of people who can get a commercial driver’s license and fill these well-paying jobs,” he said. “This bill would also allow states to permanently waive license requirements for current service members and national guardsmen if they have military experience driving a comparable vehicle.”
“That way, members of the military don’t have to go through the same old rigmarole twice,” he said, adding, “They get trained in the military; and then they get out; and then the civilian world ignores the fact that they have trained and been qualified in the military; and this bill fixes that.”
Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., who sponsored the measure in the House, offered similar praise for the move.
“This bill has always been about crafting a common sense, bipartisan solution that provides opportunities for our veterans returning to the civilian workforce as quickly as possible while also filling much-needed positions within the trucking industry,” he said in a statement.
“These kinds of seemingly small, targeted solutions may not always make the front page news, but they make a big difference in the lives of those affected,” he said.
State and federal lawmakers in recent years have pushed a number of initiatives to better match military skills with civilian credentialing requirements in an effort to help veterans transition into private-sector jobs.