JUNEAU – Friday, the House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 123 by the Senate Transportation Committee, which repeals the requirement that applicants for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) hold a regular driver’s license for one year. This requirement was enacted in 1985 before state and federal regulators modernized the training and licensing standards for CDLs. Today, an individual seeking a CDL has an extensive training and testing process to go through to ensure they are ready to drive commercial vehicles safely.
“Alaskans are ready to work, and removing this unnecessary barrier to entry will help our state attract drivers to fill jobs in the private sector, our school districts, and our city streets,” said Senator James Kaufman, R-Anchorage, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Alaska has a critical truck driver shortage, and sometimes a small change like this can make a noticeable impact on our economy. I am encouraged by the effort by both bodies to help close our significant workforce gap.”
“I’m excited to be a part of passing this workforce bill,” said Rep. Julie Coulombe, R-Anchorage, sponsor of House version of the bill. “It removes an unnecessary barrier in the statutes and affords people the opportunity to get a CDL without delay. With future infrastructure projects coming online with the Jobs Act funds and possibly Willow, we need as many people as we can get to move those projects forward.”
The Alaska Trucking Association estimates that Alaska is 500 truck drivers short of our needs, presenting a risk to food security, tourism, construction, mining, oil and gas, etc. For urban residents, getting a driver’s license young is common. However, for individuals coming from rural communities with limited or no DMV access, new immigrants and refugees (some with years of trucking experience in their home country), and a growing number of urban adults waiting to get their regular license, the year-long wait to start the commercial driver’s licensing process poses a significant barrier to entry for those seeking to enter the trucking industry.
Prospective Alaska commercial drivers must still train with a Commercial Learner’s Permit and pass extensive written, physical, and practical road exams to fulfill state and federal Entry Level Driver Training requirements. These high standards ensure that Alaska will continue to have safe roadways with high-quality truck drivers.
Senate Bill 123 passed the House of Representatives unanimously. The legislation also passed the Senate unanimously on May 3, 2023. This bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.