Non-CDL Problem To Be Addressed in Washingtonby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/08/2013
A recent CBS 7 investigation into the number of drivers in the Permian Basin caught driving commercial trucks without the required CDL has caught the attention of lawmakers such as State Representative Tryon Lewis. Lewis says he is meeting with The State Transportation and the Homeland Security Committee next week to discuss his concerns of the weak penalties given to drivers caught operating their commercial trucks without a CDL.
Four months ago, the investigation brought the spotlight on the growing epidemic of non CDL drivers and their involvement in over 350 wrecks in the Permian Basin alone, killing 14 west Texans. While it was revealed that most violators do not drive for major corporations, but small independent companies, the increasing demand for drivers and the shrinking pool of qualified drivers now a problem in every state, the non-CDL problem is national concern. If you combine the number of companies whose business demands drivers to move freight as of yesterday and the number of unemployed Americans still desperate to start work today, the “no experience no problem” job advertisements are becoming common to the trucking industry. The vast majority of truck-drivers are CDL holders simply because almost all of the larger companies demand it, but in places like west Texas, where the oil boom is increasing the driver demand ten fold, unqualified drivers are inevitably hired.
Still, legit companies who hire drivers with no experience usually hire them right out of driver training school and some even offer paid training on the job. Federal law requires every truck driver to hold a commercial driver's license and the mentality of most employers is taking every measure to abide by the law rather than risk their business suffering the penalties. But what the CBS investigation uncovered is that the penalties may not nearly stiff enough to deter the willing offenders.
In fact, the number of tickets issued to non CDL truck drivers by the Texas Department of Public Safety has gone up from 139 in 2010 to 300 this year and is expected to double by the year's end. It was also found that over 130 small independent companies in West Texas were hiring these drivers and many of them even willing to cover the $500 maximum fines issued to their employees. The drivers themselves would only risk being charged with a class C misdemeanor and although the companies can also be audited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and fined on the gross income of their business, a single citation takes up to a year to process.
The bottom line is obvious to many; the law needs to come down on these violators much harder or the problem will only keep growing and that is exactly what Tryon Lewis is going to try and convince everyone else in Washington of next week. Bob Timmons is a certified commercial driver for more than ten years and says drivers who drive without being trained and licensed are also giving truck drivers a bad name.
"They need to train like everybody else," he said.