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Legislature Works To increase Number of CDL Holders

Information in this column comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley M.D., who represents Giles and five other counties.

From school bus drivers to trucking, the lack of Commercial Driver Licenses (CDL) inTennessee is hurting our communities in many ways.

Consumers everywhere have felt the effects of the backlog in moving freight across the country.

As the holidays approach, which is a busy time for retailers, this issue is going to become more prominent. The American Trucking Association estimates that the United States is 80,000 truck drivers short, causing supply chain issues across Tennessee and the nation.

To address this issue, in the General Assembly we approved legislation to help increase the number of Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs) by expanding eligibility, implementing a quicker turnaround for issuing CDLs and creating a program within the Department of Safety to train qualifying incarcerated individuals and prepare them for a job in the trucking industry.

The legislation creates a program to enable qualifying incarcerated individuals who will return to society to receive a CDL prior to or after their release. Inmates with certain criminal convictions will not be eligible for this training program.

We have heard from industry leaders in trucking that often formerly incarcerated individuals are some of their best drivers. They appreciate freedom and the ability to have a job.

This training program with the Department of Corrections will yield positive results for the trucking industry, former incarcerated individuals and public safety.

Giving these individuals jobs helps prevent them from returning to a life of crime and steers towards a life of productivity.

The new measure will also increase resources and staff for the Department of Safety to allow for a quicker turnaround to schedule commercial driving skills tests and will expand options for third party partners to conduct more commercial driving skills tests on the department’s behalf.

The measure also lowers the age for those who can receive a CDL. Under the bill, Tennesseans ages 18 - 20 can receive a CDL to drive in the state.

School Bus Driver Shortages

A huge shortage of bus drivers across Middle Tennessee is negatively impacting students, teachers, and parents. Bus drivers are being forced to add stops to their routes, which is resulting in busloads of children arriving to school late.

Because many local school districts are having a hard time obtaining school bus drivers, the legislation will also provide more flexibility for school bus endorsement testing and ensure safer school bus drivers as well.

In the General Assembly, we also removed barriers for retired school bus drivers to become reemployed without the loss or suspension of their retirement benefits.

A new law allows retired teachers and bus drivers to return to their service for one year, which can be renewed annually as needed.

Previously, retired members of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) could return to work, but only for a maximum of 120 days.

Because of bus driver shortages, many school districts have increased the pay for school bus drivers, which could incentivize retired drivers to return to work.

Under the new law, during re-employment, retirement benefits would be reduced to 70 percent of the retirement allowance the member is otherwise entitled to receive, and the existing salary cap would be removed. The bill is effective to June 30, 2025.

Sen. Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN 37243, or call 615-741-3100, call toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, telephone him at home at 931-796-2018, call his cell phone at 931-212-8823 or E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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