What the CDL is happening?

Regulatory changes may further impact work force and supply chain issues

The images of cargo ships stacked with freight containers bobbing off the coast of California last fall and the giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal last spring are still fresh in most consumer’s minds. We all have felt some of the effects from these situations – such as empty store shelves, long waits for furniture orders to be fulfilled and higher prices. We still are not out of the woods.

We haven’t yet felt the impacts of bad weather, lack of skilled workers or delays due to the Omicron variant. Depending on the source of information – from the New York Federal Reserve to Forbes Magazine – the supply chain issues may have peaked or they are expected to last long into 2022.

The supply chain is heavily reliant upon transportation – planes, trains, ships and trucks – for the distribution of goods. The semi-trucks driving down highways and rural routes bring us our food, paper products and building materials. They haul grain and beans. Tanker trucks deliver fuel to service stations. And what do all those transportation drivers have in common? They have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

In general, to drive a 26,001-pound single vehicle or a vehicle with a gross combined weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, a CDL is required. This includes semi-trucks, truck and trailer combinations, bucket trucks – which includes our trusty cooperative lineworkers – as well as school and passenger buses.

Up until recently, to receive a CDL in Illinois, a person had to first obtain a Commercial License Permit – this allowed a person to learn to drive while accompanied by someone with a CDL. After two weeks of having the permit, a person could take a written exam and skills test through the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office.

Beginning February 2022, the requirements to receive a CDL will change. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will require entry level trainees to receive certification from a training provider registered with the FMCSA – think community colleges, vocational or driving schools.

Certification requires completed mandatory theory (knowledge) and behind-the wheel courses. Trucking schools can cost anywhere between $3,000-$7,000 and take 3 to 5 weeks to complete. Anyone looking to upgrade their CDL or obtain one for the first time must now comply with these new regulations.

With supply chain disruptions caused by transportation issues as well as trucker shortages – the American Trucking Association estimates a shortage of 80,000 drivers in 2022 – it appears as if relief for the industry will not come anytime soon.

Again, there are many issues affecting the supply chain at this time. The new CDL mandate will not be the main cause of transportation issues, but it certainly may be another disruptor in the field.

And, just in case you were looking to get your CDL as a gift for that someone special for Valentine’s Day this year, be prepared to have to go back to school to get it.