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New Michigan law waives CDL driving test for eligible veterans

Eligible military veterans seeking a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Michigan no longer are required to take the driving skills test under a new law that adds to a growing list of employment benefits for veterans in the state.

Under the “Even Exchange” law, signed into law late last year by Gov. Whitmer, the Michigan Secretary of State can waive the driving test for veterans who have the requisite experience through specific Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) in the past year. In essence, this applies to those veterans who were trained to drive military fifth-wheel truck tractors and semitrailers, “pintle hook” truck-trailer combinations and single vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds.

Michigan already waives the knowledge skills portion of the CDL for these eligible veterans. By now waiving the driving skills test, Michigan becomes one of fewer than 20 states to waive both tests for eligible veterans, according to the latest available data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“The bipartisan Even Exchange legislation that I signed into law proves that when we work together and put Michiganders first, we can support the brave men and women who served our country by easing their path to a good-paying job and improving their quality of life. Together, we will continue growing our economy and making investments to empower every working family,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  

“I am proud to support our veterans and this legislation and have worked diligently to make the necessary changes within our department to ensure military veterans who have successfully earned the equivalent of a commercial driver’s license do not have to repeat the process,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

There are some 257,000 CDL holders in Michigan, yet a shortage of long-haul truckers, bus drivers and other commercial operators continues across the state and nation. The American Trucking Association estimated the nationwide truck driver shortage hit a historic high of 80,000 drivers in 2021 and will rise to more than 160,000 drivers in 2030. The Biden administration is also spearheading a push to encourage more veterans to pursue a career in the trucking industry.  

By making it easier for veterans to get their CDLs in Michigan, the new law can help fill the gap for commercial drivers and bolster veteran employment with good-paying jobs, said Zaneta Adams, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. The MVAA is the central coordinating agency for Michigan’s nearly 568,000 veterans and their families.

"As a veteran, the wife of a veteran and as a mother to a military spouse, I understand firsthand many of the struggles veterans and military members face when they return home and seek employment,” Adams said. “The MVAA was proud to support this legislation as another key step in making Michigan the place veterans choose to live, work, raise a family and retire."

Veterans can access the Michigan Application for Military Waiver Even Exchange or call the MVAA at 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838) for more information.

The CDL waiver is latest move to benefit veterans and their families. Among the benefits supported by the MVAA, Michigan recently expanded its veterans’ preference program for state employment, removed professional licensing barriers for veterans, and bolstered a veteran entrepreneurship program housed at Grand Valley State University.