After securing unanimous support in the Mississippi House and Senate, Gov. Tate Reeves signed House Bill 1486, Tuesday, March 22. The bill revises Mississippi’s commercial driver’s license qualification standards requiring the Commission of Public Safety to implement test waivers for currently serving military members and military veterans who have established training and experience operating heavy military vehicles.
“This legislation offers streamlined job opportunities to our Soldiers and Airmen serving in the Mississippi National Guard. It allows our service members to use their military training and experience to advance their civilian career. This is a great news story for our service members and our military families,” said Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, the adjutant general of Mississippi.
Lt. Col. Lawrence Austin, director of operations at Camp McCain Training Center in Grenada, was initially contacted by Will White, MS Freight Company in Grenada, seeking to employ up to 20 new employees to his company. He knew the trained professionals of the Mississippi National Guard would be the perfect fit to enhance his team of drivers and mechanics. After the job announcement closed, Lt. Col. Austin found that no Soldiers applied because they did not have the required CDL, even though they were qualified military transportation specialists.
Lt. Col. Austin researched the requirements to obtain a CDL in Mississippi, reaching out to Rep. Karl Oliver, who serves on the Mississippi Committee of Military Affairs, and Col. Allen McDaniel, executive director of the National Guard Association of Mississippi, for assistance. Together they drafted a proposal that ultimately became House Bill 1486.
Mississippi’s Commercial Driver’s license, or CDL, qualification standards are found in Miss. Code §63-1-208. Those standards include certain testing requirements. House Bill 1486 amends those standards adding waivers to some of its testing. These waivers are limited in application to service members and veterans who received training during their military career, reducing the time and cost of obtaining the license, and serve as an incentive to service members stationed in Mississippi to continue their military service and become a part of Mississippi’s transportation industry.
“This is a great day for Mississippi veterans and our brave men and women serving in the military. Our nation needs approximately 80,000 truck drivers just to keep up with current transportation needs,” said Gov. Reeves. “This bill offers more job opportunities for military service members, provides a resolution for our transportation demands, and strengthens our supply chain.”
The guidance for establishing the qualification standards for a CDL is found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations. States are required to follow these regulations when enacting their qualification standards for issuance of CDLs. Within these regulations, the FMCSA established certain waivers which recognize the value of the training received by military members serving in certain military occupational specialties.
Several organizations have worked diligently to research and draft this bill for consideration – including the Department of Public Safety, Mississippi National Guard, the National Guard Association of Mississippi, the Mississippi Trucking Association, and Mississippi Veterans Affairs. Their accomplishments were made possible through the support of our legislative officials and the direct involvement and support of Gov. Reeves.
“We applaud our Mississippi Legislature and Gov. Reeves on their constant support of our Mississippi National Guard,” said retired Col. Bill Murphy, current president of the National Guard Association of Mississippi.
The Mississippi National Guard engaged several platforms to inform and educate trained service members on the new opportunities the legislation offers. This united effort will harness the value of military training and translate military expertise to careers in the civilian workforce. Programs such as the Mississippi National Guard Outreach Services, Employment Outreach, Work for Warriors Program, and Education Office have already begun the process of assisting our military service members to connect them with industry partners in their local areas for civilian job opportunities.
“Programs like this are made possible by our communities recognizing the training and skills that our service members bring to the workforce,” said Sarah Frey, director of the Work for Warriors Program, Mississippi National Guard. “We hope to be a conduit for our industry and community partners for resources and military engagement in order to better identify, understand, and utilize the military talent across the state.”
According to the Mississippi National Guard Education Officer, Maj. Heath Morgigno, approximately 450 Mississippi National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have completed the required transportation training and are serving in military transportation jobs that would make them eligible to obtain a Mississippi CDL under House Bill 1486.
For the driving skills test waiver, a service member must be or must have been assigned a position that requires them to operate heavy military vehicles. This waiver will be available to members with at least 2 years of safe vehicle operation.
The knowledge test waiver will be available to those service members with one these specialties:
Army – Motor Transport Operator (88M), Patriot Launching Station Operator (14T), Petroleum Supply Specialist (92F)
Air Force – Ground Transportation Specialist (2T1), Fuels Specialist (2F0), Pavement and Construction Equipment Operator (3E2)
Marine Corps – Motor Vehicle Operator (3531)
Navy – Equipment Operator (EO)
Service members will need to provide official documentation of their military-skills specialty designation to qualify for the waiver.
In addition to the driving skills and knowledge tests, the bill directs the Commission to provide waivers for certain endorsement tests. By providing appropriate documentation, service members will be able to take advantage of test waivers for the hazardous materials, tanker vehicle, and passenger vehicle endorsements.
Military service members obtaining their CDL through these waivers will not be required to obtain a commercial driver learner’s permit. In addition, service members will not be required to meet the requirements of the FMCSA’s Entry Level Drivers Training (ELDT) regulations. The Administration will determine the military training, testing, and procedures meet or exceed the requirements of the ELDT rule.
Members of the Mississippi National Guard, Reserve, and Active-Duty branches of service will be included in the military service members who qualify for the waivers. The waivers will also be available to separated service members for up to one year following their departure from service.
The Department of Public Safety will be adopting rules and regulations necessary to implement these test waivers as soon as practical after July 1, 2022, but no later than July 1, 2023. More updates will be provided as the rules and regulations are implemented.
The Mississippi National Guard Soldiers and Airmen continue to serve with honor and integrity in diverse missions throughout our state and nation. We are Always Ready and Always There.
* A special thanks to Lt. Col. Lawrence Austin for providing the above cited information on the details of the new law.
Photographed Left to Right: Representative Bill Pigott, Committee on Appropriations; Representative Lester “Bubba” Carpenter, Chairman of House Military Affairs; Lt. Col. Stacey Pickering, Executive Director of Mississippi Veterans Affairs; Hal Miller, Executive Director of Mississippi Trucking Association; Lt. Col. Lawrence Austin, Director of Operations, Camp McCain Training Center, MSNG; Representative Karl Oliver, Committee on Military Affairs; Senator Joseph “Mike” Seymour, Chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs, and Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, the Adjutant General of Mississippi. Seated: Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves.