FMCSA extends and modifies COVID-19 waiver for CDLs and med cards

Carriers and drivers using the exception should review terms of the updated waiver

Posted February 18, 2021

In response to the continued COVID-19 health emergency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is extending and modifying a waiver that covers expired drivers’ licenses and medical certification.

The revised waiver is in effect March 1, 2021, and expires May 31, 2021, or upon the revocation of the Declaration of National Emergency, whichever is sooner. The previous waiver is due to expire on February 28, 2021.

Terms of the licensing waiver

The licensing portion of the waiver applies to interstate and intrastate commercial driver’s license (CDL) and learner’s permit (CLP) holders.

The waiver permits, but does not require, states to extend the validity of licenses due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The final decision is left to the discretion of individual states. Carriers and drivers should dialog with the state driver’s licensing agency (SDLA) to learn whether FMCSA’s waiver is applicable.

States opting to implement the relief provided by the waiver may extend licenses until May 31, 2021, delaying the requirements in §§383.73 and 383.25.

The waiver permits states to:

  • Extend CDLs due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020, beyond the 8-year maximum period;
  • Extend CLPs due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020, beyond the 1-year maximum without
  • requiring the driver to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests; and
  • Waive the 14-day waiting period for CLP holders to take the CDL skills test.

The waiver does not apply to a CDL or CLP holder if the driver's privileges have been suspended or withdrawn for traffic offenses or if the driver is otherwise disqualified to operate a CMV.

Terms of the medical certification waiver

Drivers who are required to have a medical card (i.e., CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers) must meet specific criteria in order to extend their medical certification through May 31, 2021.

Under the revised waiver, a driver can qualify to get an extension on an expiring medical card if:

  • His or her existing medical card expired on or after December 1, 2020;
  • The existing medical card was issued for at least 90 days;
  • The driver has not been diagnosed with a disqualifying medical condition since the previous medical exam; and
  • The driver carries a copy of his or her expired medical certificate and any required variance.

CDL and CLP holders that qualify also are waived from the requirement to provide their SDLA with a copy of a new medical examiner’s certificate before the previous certification expires. SDLAs have been waived from having to downgrade a CDL or CLP holder’s license for failure to provide this proof of current medical qualifications.

Reporting accidents

Each motor carrier must notify FMCSA within five business days of an accident (as defined in §390.5), involving any CDL holder, CLP holder, or non-CDL driver operating under the terms of this waiver.

FMCSA reserves the right to revoke this waiver for drivers’ involvement in accidents, motor carriers’ failure to report accidents, and drivers’ failure to comply with the restrictions of this waiver.

This article was written by Kathy Close of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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