Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The latest information on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is available on coronavirus.gov.

United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Expanded Frequently Asked Questions for State Driver Licensing Agencies and Commercial Drivers Regarding Permissible Actions During the COVID-19 Emergency - April 13, 2020

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC  20590

Expanded Frequently Asked Questions for
State Driver Licensing Agencies and
Commercial Drivers Regarding Permissible Actions
During the COVID-19 Emergency

April 13, 2020

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has compiled this list of responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding actions State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLA) or commercial driver’s license holders may take during the public health emergency related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) that are permissible under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

This guidance document does not have the force and effect of law and is not meant to bind the public in any way.  This guidance is intended only to provide clarity regarding existing requirements under the law.

State Issuance of Commercial Learner’s Permits (CLPs) and Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs)

Question 1:      Does FMCSA’s Emergency Declaration exempt States from the regulatory requirements in 49 CFR parts 383 and 384?

Answer 1:        No.  Emergency declarations issued by the FMCSA pursuant to 49 CFR § 390.23(a), providing relief from certain regulatory requirements during an emergency, are only applicable to 49 CFR parts 390 through 399.

Question 2:      May an SDLA use a contractor to issue or renew CLP credentials?  

Answer 2:        Yes. The FMCSRs do not prohibit an SDLA from using a contractor to issue or renew CLP credentials.  The SDLA must ensure that the requirements relating to the issuance and renewal of the CLP, as set forth in 49 CFR parts 383 and 384, are met, including checking the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) and adding pointers to CDLIS. 

Question 3:      FMCSA’s Notice to SDLAs, issued on March 20, 2020, stated that the Agency would not issue a finding or substantial non-compliance determination if a State extends the expiration dates for CDLs or CLPs or if the State decides not to change the medical certification status to “not certified” or downgrade a CDL or CLP driver whose Medical Examiner’s Certificate has expired, provided the State “promptly” brings the practices back into conformance with the requirements of 49 CFR parts 383 and 384. Will there be a grace period for States to come back into compliance?

Answer 3:        States should make returning to compliance a priority.  FMCSA expects SDLAs to bring their CDL and CLP issuance and medical certification practices back into conformance with the requirements of parts 383 and 384 within 90 days after the end of the Presidentially declared COVID-19 national emergency or within 90 days of the SDLA resuming normal operations, whichever is sooner.

Question 4:      If a State issues restricted or temporary CDLs for drivers in farm related service industries, in accordance with 49 CFR 383.3(f), during the harvesting season and the State is unable to issue plastic CDL credentials due to SDLA office closures, may the State issue paper credentials?

Answer 4:        Yes.  The FMCSRs do not require SDLAs to issue plastic licensing credentials.  However, SDLAs must issue licensing credentials in accordance with the requirements of 49 CFR part 383, subpart J.

Question 5:      If an SDLA renews a CLP or CDL online, may the SDLA keep the same photograph for an additional renewal cycle?

Answer 5:        Yes.  The FMCSRs do not prohibit SDLAs from reusing the driver’s photo from the previous CLP/CDL.   

Endorsements

Question 6:      If an SDLA renews a CDL online during the COVID-19 public health emergency and the driver holds a Hazardous Materials (HM) endorsement, may the SDLA also renew the HM endorsement without requiring the driver to retake the HM knowledge test as required under 383.71(d)(3)?

Answer 6:        No.  Commercial drivers who wish to retain an HM endorsement during CDL renewal are required to retake the HM knowledge test in accordance with 49 CFR 383.71(d)(3) and 383.73(d)(4).  FMCSA has not issued a waiver or an exemption from this requirement.

Question 7:      May National Guard members who hold a civilian CDL operate a passenger bus if they do not have a passenger/school bus endorsement?

Answer 7:       Yes.  In accordance with 49 CFR 383.3(c), National Guard members who are on active duty and are operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for military purposes are exempt from all CDL requirements in 49 CFR part 383.

Question 8:      May National Guard members drive CMVs delivering emergency equipment, medical supplies, food, and other essential material in support of the response to the COVID-19 public health emergency from a regional distribution center to a local distribution center, if they do not have a civilian CDL?  

Answer 8:        Yes, if the National Guard member is on active duty and is operating the CMV for military purposes.  In accordance with 49 CFR 383.3(c), members of the National Guard who are on active duty and are operating a CMV for military purposes are exempt from the CDL requirements and therefore would not need a civilian CDL to transport the goods.  

Question 9:      During the COVID-19 public health emergency, may an SDLA issue a double/triple trailer endorsement without requiring a driver to pass the knowledge test required by 49 CFR 383.93?

Answer 9:        No.  In accordance with 49 CFR 383.93, the State shall only issue a double/triple trailer endorsement to a driver who successfully completes the knowledge test.  FMCSA has not issued a waiver or exemption from this requirement.  

Medical Examiner’s Certificates (MEC)

Question 10:    During the COVID-19 public health emergency, may an SDLA issue a CLP or CDL to a new driver applicant who does not have, and has never held, a Medical Examiner’s Certificate?

Answer 10:      No.  Driver applicants who have never held a CLP or CDL must meet all the qualification requirements of 49 CFR part 383 in order to be issued a CLP or CDL.  FMCSA’s Waiver, issued on March 24, 2020, applies to drivers with an expired medical certificate if the driver had a medical certificate issued for a period of 90 days or longer, that was valid on February 29, 2020, and expired on or after March 1, 2020.  A driver applicant who has never held a medical certificate is not covered by the waiver.

Question 11:     If an SDLA’s computer system automatically changes a driver’s medical certification status from “certified” to “not certified” or automatically downgrades a driver’s CDL or CLP when the driver’s Medical Examiner’s Certificate expires, may the driver continue operating a CMV in commerce during the COVID-19 public health emergency?

Answer 11:      Yes, if FMCSA’s Waiver or Notice of Enforcement Policy, issued on March 24, 2020, applies.  As explained therein, FMCSA will not take enforcement action against a driver with an expired medical certificate if the driver had a medical certificate issued for a period of 90 days or longer, that was valid on February 29, 2020, and expired on or after March 1, 2020.

Testing CDL/CLP Applicants

Question 12:    Under FMCSA’s Emergency Declaration, may an SDLA issue a CLP or CDL to a driver without requiring the driver to take a skills test?

Answer 12:      No.  The Emergency Declaration issued by the FMCSA pursuant to 49 CFR § 390.23(a)(1)(i) is only applicable to 49 CFR parts 390 through 399. In accordance with 49 CFR 384.202, the State shall only issue a CLP or CDL to a driver who has passed the knowledge and skills tests required by part 383, unless an exception applies.   

Question 13:    In light of the current COVID-19 public health emergency and the need to comply with social distancing guidelines, may States leverage technology (e.g., Bluetooth, in-cab cameras, cell phones) to administer the CDL skills test in a way that allows the examiners to not be physically present in the cab of the vehicle with the driver applicant while conducting the on-road test segment? 

Answer 13:      In accordance with 49 CFR 383.131(b), SDLAs must administer tests using a test examiner information manual that FMCSA determines is comparable to AAMVA’s 2005 CDL Test System Model CDL Manual (AAMVA Model).  The AAMVA Model specifies that to complete the on-road segment of the skills test, the examiner must observe a driver applicant’s operation of the vehicle and provide instruction.  However, in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and the need to integrate CDC guidance while ensuring continued movement of emergency supplies and equipment during the public health emergency, FMCSA is encouraging SDLAs to test drivers while practicing social distancing. 

As such, FMCSA requests States that wish to administer the skills test without the examiner being physically present in the test vehicle submit a plan to the Agency and explain how their administration of the test will be comparable to the AAMVA model.  The plan should detail how the State intends to (i) administer the test without compromising safety, (ii) observe the skills test from a second vehicle, (iii) leverage technology, and (iv) score the road test, along with (v) any other information the State believes will help FMCSA determine whether the test administration is comparable to the AAMVA Model.  States may wish to consider, for example, either having two employees in a sufficiently large follow vehicle (seated six feet apart) or else having one employee in a follow vehicle while a recording device that is set up on the vehicle records the test, viewing the applicant’s performance after the examiner has stopped driving, and then immediately deleting the recording.  FMCSA will consider such plans until June 30, 2020.

Question 14:    A number of States are experiencing greater than normal employee absences or have closed offices of their SDLAs in response to the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  May States leverage technology (e.g., cameras, video proctoring, cell phones, online testing) to administer the CDL knowledge tests and not be physically present? 

Answer 14:      In accordance with 49 CFR 383.131(b), SDLAs must administer tests using a test examiner information manual that FMCSA determines is comparable to AAMVA’s 2005 CDL Test System Model CDL Manual (AAMVA Model).  FMCSA is encouraging SDLAs to continue to knowledge test drivers while practicing social distancing. 

As such, FMCSA requests States that wish to administer the knowledge test without the examiner being physically present to submit a plan to the Agency and explain how their administration of the test will be comparable to the AAMVA model.  The plan should detail how the State intends to (i) administer the test without compromising safety, (ii) observe the knowledge test without being physically present, (iii) leverage technology, and (iv) verify a test taker’s identity, along with (v) any other information the State believes will help FMCSA determine whether the test administration is comparable to the AAMVA Model. FMCSA will consider such plans until June 30, 2020.

Miscellaneous State Requirements

Question 15:    Will the States be found in noncompliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related DOT regulations if they must close SDLA locations because of the COVID-19 public health emergency? 

Answer 15:      Federal financial assistance recipients or grantees must submit a Title VI Program Compliance Plan (Plan), which includes a section titled “Community Participation Process.”  The purpose of the section is to ensure that grantees do not take actions that cause a marked diminution of available services and facilities offered.  FMCSA understands the significant challenges presented by the COVID-19 public health emergency; however, each grantee should follow the Community Participation Process set forth in the Plan and provide the most detailed communications possible to affected customers.

States should email Lester Finkle, FMCSA Title VI Coordinator, at lester.finkle@dot.gov and Yvette Rivera, Associate Director, U.S. Department of Transportation, Departmental Office of Civil Rights, EquityandAccessConcerns@dot.gov, for additional guidance.

FMCSA’s Expanded Emergency Declaration:  For a listing of resources related to COVID-19, please go to: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/COVID-19.  For additional information, please contact:  FMCSADeclaration@dot.gov.

Last updated: Monday, April 13, 2020